#FIBAAsia2015: Bright Young Stars to Watch - Part 2

(this earlier appeared on my column on FIBA.com)

With only one ticket to the 2016 Rio Olympics up for grabs at the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship, the competition promises to be at a very high level.

Most of the top Asian stars will probably be present in that event, even those who have previously signified their interest in retiring like Fadi El Khatib (Lebanon), Kim Joo-Sung (Korea), and Liu Wei (China).

This should certainly make the action even more heated up.

Another thing to get really excited about, however, is seeing the new breed of Asian cagers who are projected to inherit the mantles of leadership from their respective clubs.

This is something we witnessed at the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship as the likes of Kazakhstan's Alexandr Zhigulin, Jordan's Ahmad Al Dwairi, Filipino center June Mar Fajardo, Japanese swingman Yuta Watanabe, Chinese playmaker Guo Ailun, Iranian sensation Mohammad Jamshidi and Indian giant Satnam Singh Bhamara all made their auspicious debuts at the senior level in Manila.

Likewise, at this year's edition of the event taking place in Changsha, China from 23 September-3 October, there will surely be a good number of players in their teens or early 20s who will burst onto the continent's biggest basketball competition for the first time and strive to make good impressions.

Last week, in the first of this two-part series, we looked at Behnam Yakhchali (Iran), Wael Arakji (Lebanon) and Saad Abdulrahman Mohamed (Qatar).

In this week's second part, we look at emerging players from India, China, Chinese Taipei and the Philippines.

Palpreet Singh Brar (India)
Palpreet just turned 21 in January of this year and, at 2.06m, he is projected to be one of the future bulwarks of India's national basketball program. He started wearing his country's colors way back at the 2009 FIBA Asia U16 Championship and has been a mainstay of the team since then. He really shone at the 2012 FIBA Asia U18 Championship, averaging 21.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 4.0 blocks per game while also shooting 54.7 percent from the field as India finished in 10th place. He was part of India's men's squad in last year’s FIBA Asia Cup as well, playing in five games as his country was among the most competitive in the field. He will probably play a supporting role in the 2015 edition, backing up veterans Amrit Pal Singh and Rikin Pethani up front.

Zhou Qi (China)
Much has been written about Zhou Qi, the 2.17m giant who is not even 20 years old yet. So good has he been these past few years that he's registered on the radars of NBA scouts since making a splash in the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship, where he put up 14.0 points, 10.1 rebounds, 1.5 steals, and 4.0 blocks per outing. Despite his youth, Zhou has, in fact, already played for China's senior team as he teamed up with fellow young star Wang Zhelin to patrol the paint for the home team at the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup. In this past Chinese Basketball Association season, Zhou also shone, recording averages of 14.1 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks for the Xinjiang Flying Tigers. Incidentally enough, he was teammates with naturalized Filipino Andray Blatche, whom he will probably face come the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship. Zhou may not play as many minutes as he usually does, though, what with Chinese icon Yi Jianlian suiting up this summer, but the youngster should still provide a lot of ceiling and length for a country with gargantuan expectations.

Kevin Hu (Chinese Taipei)
Known locally as Hu Long-Mao, this player impressed at the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship, averaging a dozen points for Chinese Taipei. His size and skill-set make him a formidable prospect at the swingman position in Asia, especially since he is proficient in attacking the basket and is dangerous from long range. Hu has also made ripples in the States, playing for the Chaminade University Silverswords in Division 2. His progress there has been impressive, culminating in his putting up 14.4 points and 4.1 rebounds while shooting 54.3 percent from the field and 38.1 percent from beyond the arc this past season as a junior. His most recent tour of duty with the national team was at the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup, where he averaged 7.7 points and shot 52.2 percent from the floor as Chinese Taipei finished second on the podium right behind powerhouse Iran. Hu will have to compete with a lot of competent wingmen if he wants to crack Chinese Taipei's final roster, but with the country looking to the future, Hu should be a prime prospect.

Kiefer Ravena (Philippines)
Like Hu, Ravena isn't a shoo-in yet for the national team, but he looks to be one of prime young candidates, especially given how he is known in Manila as "The Phenom". He has had a storied career in high school and college, and his entry into the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) is highly anticipated. What will definitely make things much sweeter for the 21-year-old, though, is being named to the final roster for the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship and actually making his mark. Ravena has actually played very well every time he has put on the Philippine colors. He averaged a team-high 17.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.6 assists at the 2009 FIBA Asia U16 Championship and also led his team at the 2010 FIBA Asia U18 Championship, putting up 18.6 points, 2.9 assists, and 2.6 steals per game while shooting 57.8 percent from the field. If Ravena does make the final 12 for coach Tab Baldwin's crew, he will probably have to play back-up to the likes of Jayson Castro and Paul Lee at the point. Nevertheless, Asian hoop nuts should keep an eye out for Kiefer as he is projected to be one of Gilas Pilipinas’s main men for years to come.

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