#FIBAAsia: Why should we get excited for Asian basketball in 2017?

Image from FIBA.

*This first appeared on weekly column on FIBA.com.

Last week, I looked back at the most memorable moments of 2016 — the events, personalities, and instances that seized the imagination of Asian basketball fans everywhere. This time around, in my final 2016 column, I will look ahead to 2017 — a year that will certainly make its indelible impact on the way basketball is organized, presented and played in the continent.

Naturally, I am looking forward to a helluva lot of exciting and competitive basketball tournaments on every level.

At the junior level, the FIBA Asia U16 Championship 2017 for Boys and Girls will give us a first look at some of the most promising young talents this side of the globe. Remember that many current superstars who have become household names started here. Guys like Guo Ailun, Zhou Qi, Sajjad Mashyakehi, Lee JongHyun, Hu Jinqiu, Rui Hachimura, Yuta Watanabe and Satnam Singh Bhamara all made their international debuts at the U16 level, and it will be very interesting to see which young guns turn our heads and make headlines in 2017.

Of course, the senior level jousts will serve as the main attractions in 2017, what with the FIBA Asia Women’s Championship, FIBA Asia Cup and Qualifiers for the FIBA Basketball World Cup all taking place.

For the FIBA Asia Women’s Championship 2017, the big question is this: Can Japan make it three in a row in terms of finishing on top? The Akatsuki Five, led by the venerable Ramu Tokashiki, have won this tournament back-to-back times in 2013 and 2015, and it will be very interesting to see if they can notch a rare three-peat. The last country to do that, not surprisingly, was China when they won the diadem in 2001, 2004 and 2005. If Japan are able to accomplish this, it will solidify their dynasty in Asian women’s hoops and cement the status of Tokashiki and her cohorts as a bona fide golden generation.

A photo posted by Ramu Tokashiki (@tokashiki_10) on

Over on the men’s side, the FIBA Asia Cup is expected to be the singular centerpiece event of 2017. Pitting the best fourteen Asian teams together with FIBA Oceania powerhouses Australia and New Zealand, the FIBA Asia Cup is a landmark event in more ways than one. The level of competition is sure to be higher than ever, and the stakes are still going to be compelling despite not having any outright slots in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 or Olympics 2020 up for grabs. Though the Boomers and Tall Blacks are heavy favorites to contend for the crown, traditionally strong Asian sides like China, Korea, Iran and Philippines will certainly want nothing more than to pull the rug from under their more ballyhooed foes. It will also be undeniably the most star-studded Asian tournament in history, with Asian icons like Yi Jianlian, Hamed Haddadi, Fadi El Khatib and Terrence Romeo potentially joined by the likes of Ben Simmons, Patty Mills, Steven Adams and Tai Webster.

National teams won’t be the only ones basking in the spotlight. With the triumphant return of the continent’s best international club tournament in 2016, the FIBA Asia Champions Cup 2017 is sure to be a big hit anew. China Kashgar, powered by Andray Blatche and Zhou Qi, brought the Champions Cup title back to China this year, and it should not come as a shock if the Chinese continue to bring the heat in 2017. Of course, top club squads from talent-rich countries like Qatar, Iran and Lebanon will also be around, while it will be curious to see if other nations like the Philippines, Korea and Japan will be able to send representatives to make their mark.

A photo posted by FIBA Asia Champions Cup (@fibaasiacc) on

Out of all the things happening next year, though, what we are all really waiting for is the start of the New Competition System and the commencement of the Qualifiers for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019. The first competition window will be in November 2017, and that will serve as the initial step in the the run-up to the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019.

I am particularly excited for the home-and-away format. It should be a thrill to see teams play more constantly in front of their home fans as this will give the game’s growth in Asia a big shot in the arm. Once this first window takes place, it should also give basketball associations around the continent a better idea of how to plan their programs and tournaments for the foreseeable future.

With so many interesting storylines in the pipeline and a number of groundbreaking initiatives set to launch, Asian basketball in 2017 will definitely be lit!




Next Post »
0 Comment