BEIRUT, Lebanon (22nd FIBA Asia U18 Championship): For a team that has played only seven editions of the FIBA Asia U18 Championship, Lebanon boast a very impressive record.
The WABA team has made the semifinals on two occasions and the quarterfinals on two other even winning the bronze medal once – at the 2006 edition in Urumqi (China) – making the haul one of the most consistent in the history of FIBA Asia’s premier junior competition.
It is the enormous legacy that the Lebanese youngsters carry, and hope to improve, as they prepare for the 22nd FIBA Asia U18 Championship to be played at Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia) from Aug 17-26.
Coach Salim Chemali has been with the thick and thin of action with this team, having steered two successive silver-medals in the highly competitive WABA U18 Championships – with only a defeat in each of the two legs – and knows more than a handful about his boys.
“Our preparation is certainly not up to the expectations,” said Chemali, who at 39 years of age will turn out as one of the youngest coaches in the competition.
“With just about three weeks left for the competition, there are one too many stumbling blocks in terms if budget and resources,” the Head of the Hoops Basketball Academy said hastening to add “But that hasn’t damaged the spirit and motivation of the boys.”
“We have the heart and the players have immense character to fight against all odds. Therefore, for sure there will be many surprises in store from our end,” he said.
“The first target will be to climb out of the first round with a good record and then use it to get a better seeding in the quarterfinals,” he said adding “Of course there are certain stronger opposition we’d prefer to avoid early in the competition,” he said.
Chemali has at his disposal two players – Gerard Hadidian and Jimmy Salem who stood out in Lebanon’s quarterfinal finish at the 2nd FIBA Asia U16 Championship at Nha Trang City (Vietnam) last year.
“Individually we have a very talented group of youngsters. Each of them is highly motivated and hungry to prove themselves. I need to keep them together and stop any distractions,” Chemali said.
“I think the best way forward for us would be to take one game at a time,” he said.