#FIBAAsia2017: The next great Asian point guard

Image from FIBA.
*This first appeared on my weekly column on FIBA.com.

Ever since taking Asia by storm in 2013, Jayson Castro of the Philippines has been hailed as the best point guard in Asia. He was named to the All-Star Five of both the 2013 and 2015 editions of the FIBA Asia Championship and has held his own on the world stage against NBA-caliber talents like JJ Barea and Tony Parker.

The Filipino superstar known as The Blur, however, isn't getting any younger (he turns 31 in June). In fact, he earlier announced his retirement from international basketball after the Philippines were eliminated in the FIBA OQT 2016 in Manila, but he returned to the Gilas Pilipinas national pool after former head coach Chot Reyes returned to the helm. Given Castro's age, though, the wear and tear he absorbs from the 11-month-long PBA season has taken a bit of a toll. A recent hamstring injury will actually sideline the Pampanga native for several weeks before he returns to on-court action, and he may not even be 100% when he does.

All these open up the possibility that Castro may no longer be as productive and dominant as he once was. This, coupled with the reality that so many young talents are coming up the ranks, means that a new playmaking wunderkind may just snatch Castro's spot at the top of the point guard ladder in Asia.

Let's see who the top candidates are.

Behnam Yakhchali (Iran)
Yakhchali started out his international career as a wingman for Iran, but he has lately been playing a lot more minutes at the point guard position. With his peer Sajjad Mashayekhi not yet developing into the kind of floor general who can dominate a game like predecessor Mahdi Kamrani constantly did, we could see a lot more minutes at the 1 spot for Yakhchali. That means Team Melli can potentially cause mismatches in the backcourt, what with Yakhchali bigger than most Asian PGs. His shooting is a sight to behold, too, and as long as he continues to progress with his playmaking, he'll be a tough nut to crack.

Wael Arakji (Lebanon)
Yakhchali's main rival in West Asia is none other than Lebanon's own wonder boy, Wael Arakji. Known as the "Lebanese Goran Dragic," Arakji has made a name for himself as the heir apparent to Fadi El Khatib's status as Lebanese ace. Arakji shone brightly in the FIBA Asia Champions Cup 2016, averaging 16.4 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game while going up against imports from opposing teams. His aggressiveness and production are amplified by his swagger, and he is as fearless as a lion.

Guo Ailun (China)
Guo outplayed Castro in their duel during the FIBA Asia Championship 2015 Final, and both were included in the All-Star Five that year. The 1.92m Chinese playmaker from Liaoning has also been tearing it up in the CBA, averaging 19.1 points, 4.4 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 1.9 steals per contest as the Flying Leopards are sitting at fifth place in the standings. He is a lock to be China's main floor general this year, and it will surely be very exciting to see him face off with Castro again on the big stage.

Yuki Togashi (Japan)
Castro is known for his sudden burst of speed, and the same can be said of Togashi, who has risen to be Japan's top PG, going past the likes of Yuta Tabuse and Naoto Tsuji. Togashi is known for being good at dictating the tempo of a ballgame, and if he can do that consistently for the Akatsuki Five this year, then they should be in good shape in the FIBA Asia Cup. The 1.67m native of Niigata Prefecture has also improved his outside shooting, and that will be a prime weapon for him if and when he squares off against the likes of Castro and Guo.

Terrence Romeo (Philippines)
One need not look far to look for one guy who could possibly take Castro's spot not just in terms of Asian hoops but in terms of leading the Philippine team as well. Romeo formed a dangerous backcourt tandem with Castro in the FIBA OQT, giving Tony Parker and Nando De Colo fits in their own match up. Whereas Castro will beat you with his quickness and tenacity, Romeo dazzles with his ball-handling and bravado. Romeo is far from being gun-shy, and with Castro's usage possibly sliding this year, the time is ripe for Romeo to emerge and play an even bigger role for Gilas Pilipinas.




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