ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia (22nd FIBA Asia U18 Championship): Nine-time gold medalists China will start as the overwhelming favorites to retain the gold medal they won two years ago at the 21st FIBA Asia Championship at Sana’A (Yemen). Therefore it’s little surprising all talks about the Group A Prelim Round at the 22nd FIBA Asia U18 Championship starting in Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia) on Friday will revolve around China.
With names like Wang Zhelin, who was left out of China’s roster for the 2012 London Olympics only in the final cut and Zhou Qi holding the key to the future of Asian basketball itself, China’s line-up at Ulaanbaatar is as imposing and daunting as they come.
Not since the advent of Yao Ming at the 1998 FIBA ASIA U18 Championship in Calcutta have any youngsters come into the FIBA Asia U18 Championship with pre-event expectations. And now we have two of them – each of them equally an excellent prospect for the future.
Not that the other teams in this group – Lebanon and India are sure to carry a few tricks up their sleeve with Hong Kong coach himself conceding that Lebanon and China are better off.
Lebanon too have some hot talents on the prowl – in the form of Jimmy Salem and Gerard Hadidian, the latter already having cut his teeth in the arduous FLBB Division A League for Hoops.
India’s line-up is conspicuous by the absence of the most gifted seven-footer to have emerged from the sub-continent, Satnam Singh Bhamara who had shown tremendous improvement in his last international outing – 2nd FIBA Asia U16 Championship at Nha Trang City (Vietnam) in 2011.
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