Author Topic: § Asian Basketball News, Stories, Tournaments & Events • Noticias, Historias, Torneos & Eventos del Baloncesto en Asia  (Read 144421 times)

Coach Mayer

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Asian Basketball News, Stories, Tournaments & Events • Noticias, Historias, Torneos  & Eventos del Baloncesto en Asia

Once a champion, always a champion

Mageshwaran's AsiaScope
For Korean veteran Jung Sunmin, life certainly has come a full circle.

The 39-year-old who once stood as the main stumbling block between China and their ambition to dominate the FIBA Asia women’s basketball scene, in an irony of sort, defied her aging limbs and aching bones plying her trade in the WCBA league and even forming a vital cog in the wheel for Shanxi Flame to win the title in their maiden season.

Now, I make no attempt to extol that Jung Sunmin was the sole reason for Shanxi’s triumph - Maya Moore takes a chunk of the credit anyway.
Nor do I mean to start the debate on her retirement from the Korean national team afresh, a new disposition under the leadership of former stalwart coach Pang Hyeol will take care of that.

At the same time, I intend to make no bones about my appreciation for the "Michael Jordan of Korean women's basketball" and mainly her ability to motivate herself even after all these long years of service. And even after retirement.

Surely, time seemed to have frozen when Jung Sunmin was leading Shanxi against Shenyang Golden Lions with the iconic Miao Lijie in their midst or against Bayi Kylin spearheaded by another Chinese stalwart Nan Chen.

Never before in their long careers, spanning close to two decades in each case, had this trio - three of the most popular and resourceful women to play the sport in FIBA Asia circles - been pitted against each other this often.

"I basically went there (to China) to help the youngsters in the team," said Jung Sunmin on her return to Seoul.

"I was certainly not looking to play more than I did. I think those times are gone," she added about the season during which she played in all but one of the 31 games her team was involved in.

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Capping her maiden season in the WCBA, Jung Sunmin came close to a triple-double with 19 points, seven rebounds and as many assists in Game 4 of the best-of-five Finals, which Shanxi won to wrap up the series.

Candace Parker #15 of the United States attempts a shot against Lee Jongae #8 and Jung Sunmin #9 of South Korea during their quaterfinal women's basketball match on Day 11 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games at the Wukesong Indoor Stadium on August 19, 2008 in Beijing, China. Photograph: Ezra Shaw from Getty Images AsiaPac.
Photograph: Zimbio

"That was nothing. It helped the team win. That’s all that is important," Jung Sunmin said immediately after that game.

"I have always wanted to play in the WCBA. It took this long to turn my dream to reality. The key thing for me at this stage in my basketball career is that a lot of people think I am still good enough. And I am able to justify the faith they repose in me," she was quoted as saying in a popular Korean online magazine.

"It was a wonderful experience. I realized how much I missed this hectic and frenzied action earlier in my career. Not that the WKBL is not hectic, but the WCBA is completely different," the first Korean to play in the WNBA about a decade ago said.

"The distance that you travel between various venues for WCBA games adds a completely new dimension to the game preparation exercise. It’s just not like what a player who is from any other league is used to," she explained.

"Not to forget that the number of players with many championships under their belt from various countries. It includes me," she added with a twinkle in her eye.

Jung Sunmin has now been a part of a championship team almost every year for the last decade or so, either for the Shinhan Bank S-Birds in the WKBL or now the Shanxi in the WCBA.

So what are her future plans? Will she play an active role in shaping the future of the Korean team?

"I am now heading straight for a holiday (in Masan, her hometown in South Gyeongsang Province, once famous for its textile industry). We’ll see about others when the time comes,” was her succinct and typical reply.

For now, I can only say I am blessed to have watched this truly genial lady grace the basketball court. Of course, her opponents may have a different opinion of how genial or graceful she was!

So long…

S Mageshwaran from FIBA

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HBC Debby Telmes

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Asian Basketball News, Stories, Tournaments & Events • Noticias, Historias, Torneos  & Eventos del Baloncesto en Asia

Change in pecking order overdue, but will it happen in 2013 ?

Hiatus Valde Deflendus (A gap or deficiency greatly to be deplored). I don’t mean to get into a linguistics discourse, but I just can’t find a more apt description of the status of women’s teams in FIBA Asia - especially those that are satisfied to make the top level competition and not make a serious attempt to break into the top four.

For more than a quarter of a century, four East  teams - China, , Korea and Chinese Taipei - have maintained a monopolistic stranglehold of the top four positions in all FIBA Asia competitions in the women’s section, cutting across all age groups.

And the big question that looms large on  and Lebanon - the two other teams that will complete the Level I competition in the 25th FIBA Asia Championship for Women to be played in Bangkok - is: “Will they break into the top four?”

Just for the record, the last time any team other than the four East  teams finished in the top four in a FIBA Asia competition for women was in the 1984 edition of the FIBA Asia Championship for Women in Shanghai, China, when the Philippines made it to the Semi-Finals. But that was an event where Taipei did not participate.

Simply put: If the four East Asian teams have been present they have simply finished in the top four.

Photograph: Zimbio

So what do India and Lebanon or both need to do to break the dominance? Well, as the old saying goes in sport: Well begun will be half done.

“With good preparation, we do have the  to challenge the top four,” leading Lebanese player Shada Nasr told me during an informal chat.

“I think it’s important to sit down, put together a plan for preparation and show commitment to execute it. I don’t mean to say we will finish in the top four, but with strong preparation we can surely take a good shot at such a finish,” she went on.

Three of the four teams - China, Korea and Japan - are in the middle of their domestic seasons, which will soon start in Taipei. Any plan for national team can begin only after that.

Therefore it is up to India - who have just finished their lone domestic competition of the Senior Nationals a couple of days ago - and Lebanon to make the head start in the preparations.

India have in their midst the gifted Geethu Anna Jose, who has scorched all the scoring charts in the three previous FIBA Asia Championships for Women. Building a team around her shouldn’t be that tall of an order.

The Lebanese league also begins soon, but that competition should be merged with the plan for the national team instead of looking at myopic successes for the clubs alone.

Lebanon do have the opportunity to look for players who are learning the trade in American colleges – all of them are pureblood Lebanese – which can only shore up their national team.

The East Asian foursome are undoubtedly miles ahead - as results in the last 30 years or so indicate - of the rest in FIBA Asia. But that should not stop India and Lebanon from making honest, determined and dedicated efforts in breaking their dominance.

Therefore my question when it comes to India and Lebanon is “will they”, rather than “can they”. Any answer that is not in the affirmative will take me back to my opening words in this piece.

So long…

S Mageshwaran from FIBA

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KChambers 45

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FIBA Asia Cup: Very similar to watching an artist’s  in progress !

More often than not, I have wondered if at all there could be an event that would act as a precursor where all the protagonists will be in action presenting and parading their wares without the pressure of the pulls and pushes of the event itself.

The 4th FIBA Asia Cup is certainly a boon to all the   aficionados in that respect.

For, assembled at the imposing and impressive all-new Ota City Gymnasium – with the smell of paint still pricking the nose – are 10 top teams of FIBA Asia who will put their best foot forward at not becoming the best, but preparing to become the best.

In terms of prize incentives, only the winners of the 4th FIBA Asia Cup will earn an automatic ticket to the 27th FIBA Asia Championship next  – the next three teams only earning additional berths to their respective sub zones. But in terms of motivation, the event holds enormous interest.

Coaches – like I discussed last week – are out to find the ideal, even if not perfect, pieces to complete the jigsaw.

Some of these pieces are familiar.

Fadi El Khatib who continues to carry the Lebanese flag with elixirous endurance, Yasseen Ismail who has led Qatar from the front for more than a decade now and Tseng Wen-Ting who performs a similar pivotal role for  Taipei will fall into this class, a class that has defied their aching limbs and aging bones.

Some pieces are being dusted out of oblivion and tried, like hosts  bringing back the enormously popular naturalised forward JR Sakuragi or Philippines trying their hand yet again at an ensemble of PBA stars.

Some pieces are being tried out new. Like Qatar naturalising former LA Lakers shooting guard Trey Johnson or Lebanon adding Garnett Thompson to their long list of naturalised players.

And some pieces, known as potential  performers, will be put through yet another test to monitor their progress. China’s Wang Zhelin and Guo Ailun or Iranian duo Sajjad Mashayekhi and Behnam Yakhchali all fall into that category.

India bring a completely different set of mixture – by bringing back an age-old  in KK Chansoria to use his seasoned expertise to guide the young guns like Palpreet Brar and Rakesh.

Therefore, calling the 4th FIBA Asia Cup a preparatory event is churlish. Yes, it is not a qualifier for any international competition. But there lies the charm and challenge of the event. It is a competition that provides all the ingredients of the FIBA Asia Championship itself, yet the protagonists can use it to try and test their wares.

To draw an analogy from the world of art, it is like the rough sketches Leonardo Da Vinci spent before creating the ‘Lady with the Mysterious Smile’ that enchants all who visit the famous Louvre.

The 4th FIBA Asia Cup in Tokyo is nothing but the compulsory and crucial step in the process of producing the perfect Mona Lisa!

So long…

S Mageshwaran from FIBA

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Don Tito

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The helmsmen are out to prepare the ship for high seas !

There is a churning underway in FIBA Asia teams that takes aim at different goals – each relevant in their respective contexts. All top teams in FIBA Asia have gone back to the drawing board with varying targets – some aim at enhancing their status, others at turning around a decline and some others at revival.

As is the case everywhere and every time in , much of  these targets – or coming close to them – will depend to a large extent on the chief helmsmen of each ship – the coaches.

Take a look at some of the teams who will play the 4th FIBA Asia Cup starting in Tokyo next week for instance.

China have put the emphasis on building a team for the 2016 Olympics and have assembled a line-up where most of the players are in their early 20s. Guo Ailun and Wang Zhelin are the leading sparks of this team – both having established their credentials as players of enormous potential, but the key to China’s way forward is Fan Bin, for long the coach of their junior teams.

With the team itself comprising players who have all come through the ranks – from the U16 level – it does sound logical that Fan Bin, who has handled most of these players at the U16 level, should be the man who facilitates their progress to the senior ranks.

Iran, the only team apart from China to have won the FIBA Asia Championship in the last decade and half, have chosen a path that is slightly different.

The Quarter-Final defeat at the 26th FIBA Asia Championship in Wuhan, China last year certainly did not go well with the top brass of the IRIBF and that is why Slovenian Memi Becirovic has come in.

The results that come out of Tokyo will be of very little significance in Tehran, but the shrewd tactician in Becirovic will know that to eventually meet the targets set by his employers he has to get the combination cracking in Tokyo.

“I need to find a way to combine the present and the ,” Becirovic was telling me during his ‘scouting’ trip at the 22nd FIBA Asia U18 Championship in , Mongolia where he accompanied the Iran U18 team as its technical advisor.

“There is time yet to reach where we aim to, but then if we have to reach there without trouble we have to work hard now,” he added with his eye clearly set on the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup.

Similar is the situation of Chot Reyes of Philippines.

The multiple PBA title winner has made a comeback of sorts to the hot seat of the team after his stint in a similar position at the 24th FIBA Asia Championship in Tokushima, Japan in 2007 – having been an assistant to the sagacious Rajko Toroman at the 26th FIBA Asia Championship in between.

The coach of the highly-successful Talk N Text in the PBA thus carries the hopes of what I call one of the most dynamic basketball communities in the world.

There is another community – longitudinally a little far away, but attitudinally similar – Lebanon which also brings a coach who has had remarkable success in the domestic league in recent times.

Ghassan Sarkis, arguably the biggest contributor in putting Lebanon on the world basketball map more than a decade ago, has been given the responsibility of bringing the Cedars back to the top rungs in FIBA Asia basketball. And the astute coach of Champville does know he will need more than the grace of the Maristes to take the team forward.

India and Japan have taken a different path – by opting to reinstate veteran coaches who were pushed into the oblivion in the recent past.

Kimikazu Suzuki was almost forgotten after Japan failed to go beyond the Quarter-Finals in front of a home crowd at the 24th FIBA  Asia Championship in Tokushima in 2007 and has found his JBL successes with the Aishin Sea Horses useful enough to come back as the chief coach of the hosts of the 4th FIBA Asia Cup.

And KK Chansoria – the grand old man of Indian basketball coaching – has taken it upon himself to lead and ensure India does  a long overdue turnaround in fortunes.

Whether their seasoned experience can be used by their wards on court will be watched with keen interest.

Then of course is the genial Tom Wisman who seems to be the go-to man for FIBA Asia teams looking for a resurgence in their reputation and revival in rankings. Two years ago, the soft-spoken American took over the reins of a demoralised and debilitated  National Team and put them on a course which not only brought back respectability, but also a revival in terms on rankings.

Having put Japan back in its deserved position on the international basketball map, Wisman now is at the helm of the Qatar National Team for the 4th FIBA Asia Cup doing a similar job with a similar target – to bring the reputation of the GCC giants back.

We’ll talk more about the 4th FIBA Asia Cup itself next week.

So long…

S Mageshwaran from FIBA

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Never before has the anticipation been this high !

There is certainly a sense of disappointment in FIBA Asia circles after their champions China bowed out of the 2012 London Olympics men's competition without even a single win. Dissections and discussions abound, and will continue for some time, on the what-ifs and what-nots from the board rooms of Beirut to Beijing and Tokyo to Tehran on China's show - or as some call it no-show.

This piece is not about adding to those analyses, but more towards facilitating answering of those questions that are raised in these discussions.

That exactly is the backdrop when FIBA Asia's top 16 junior teams assemble at the high-altitude Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar for the 22nd FIBA Asia U18 Championship starting on Friday.

Never before has the anticipation of the talent on show at a FIBA Asia U18 Championship been this high - not even when Yao Ming took part in the FIBA Asia U18 Championship at the Calcutta (India) edition in 1998 when he cut his teeth at the international stage.

There is already more than a general idea about the youngsters who will take to the court at the Buyant-Ukhaa Arena, each of them having already given enough evidence as talented young players who hold enormous potential.

Take the name of China's Wang Zhelin for instance.

The 18-year-old almost made it to China's roster for the 2012 London Olympics and thus his credentials as a prospective star is under no doubt.

Or his teammate Zhou Qi for another. This youngster too has made his mark in the junior ranks and his growth and improvement will be watched with keen interest.

It's not only China who bring established juniors - if ever there was a phrase like that - to Mongolia.

There is Korea's Lee Jonghyun, who now has the experience of donning the Korean NT colors at the 2012 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament behind him. In a high school game last year, this 206-cm center pulled down a mammoth 42 rebounds in a single game while playing for Kyungbokgo HS, which speaks for his abilities under the board.

There is also the Japanese Yusei Suguira, whose tall presence brings a refreshing change to the traditional Japanese speed-shoot style of basketball.

Then there are the West Asian youngsters in Lebanese Jimmy Salem and Iranian Sajjad Mashayekhi, who have both cut their teeth in the professional circuit in their domestic leagues.

For sure, the talent that is expected to show itself up at Ulaanbaatar holds the promise to send the bitterness of China's defeats at the 2012 London Olympics to distant memory!

More on this over the next few weeks!

So long…

S Mageshwaran from FIBA

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