30 players to watch with 30 days to go to Asia Cup 2022

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BEIRUT (Lebanon) – Look at the time, there’s only 30 days left to FIBA Asia Cup 2022! As we continue to count down the days to Asia’s premier basketball competition, we celebrate this milestone by listing down 30 players to watch for the upcoming event.

Disclaimer: Players listed in this article are only speculated to be playing according to announcements from National Federations and general news but do not necessarily correspond to the rosters that will play at the FIBA Asia Cup 2022.

As 30 is a pretty big number (though not big enough to cover all the Asia Cup stars we want to see in action), we’ve categorized the players into five groups.

Without further ado, here are the 30 players to watch for in Asia Cup 2022!

Asia Cup 2017 award winners

We love seeing our favorite players win awards. More than that, we love seeing them put an attempt to hold on to those previous awards as contenders rise up to the challenge in the consequent competition.

Hamed Haddadi (1) has won four Asia Cup MVPs (queue applause), but has been able to defend the title only once when he won the award in 2007 and 2009. Coming off another fantastic 2017 MVP campaign averaging 16.2 points, 10.8 rebounds. 6.5 assists and 1.8 blocks per game, the legendary center from Iran might come back for another run.

If he does return for Asia Cup 2022, he is expected to be joined with Mohammad Jamshidi (2), who was also on the Asia Cup 2017 All-Star Five team. Jamshidi has been on fire, recently torching Bahrain for 41 points in the World Cup Qualifiers and will be looking to keep that going should he be headed to Jakarta.

Of course, it’s the winners of the big main prize – the Asia Cup itself – that fans should be looking to see return to the competition to defend their throne. Nick Kay (3) recently played in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Asian Qualifiers and was vocal about wanting to defend the Asia Cup title if he has the opportunities to do so. Seeing how well he’s improved over the years through appearances in the World Cup and the Olympics with the Boomers, it should be exciting for Asia Cup fans to see Kay in Jakarta, too.

Another Asia Cup 2017 champion that would be fun to see in Jakarta is Mitch Creek (4). The high-flying forward took a phenomenal leap forward in his basketball career after winning the Asia Cup in 2017 by averaging 14.7 points and 5.2 rebounds on 68.5 percent shooting from the field.

Last but not least, let’s not forget another member of the All-Star Five Shea Ili (5). New Zealand made their Asia Cup debut by advancing all the way to the Semi-Finals and Ili was a large part of why. In 26.9 minutes per game, the guard averaged 15.4 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game for the Tall Blacks.

Returning Stars

There are some players that you just can’t get enough of. At Asia Cup 2017, you might have already seen them shine brightly as stars in the past or maybe you’ve seen glimpses of the stars that they can.

Guo Ailun (6) definitely falls in the category of stars who shines brightly at Asia Cup 2017 when he led the team in scoring (17.0), assists (3.4), and Efficiency (14.0) per game for fifth-placed China. He’s been a senior national team veteran for more than a decade and could be looking to add another Asia Cup run to his resume for a shot at another title.

Meanwhile, Iran’s Arsalan Kazemi (7) could be looking for his first Asia Cup title as well after coming so close in 2017. He averaged 10.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game, highlighted by a near-perfect game of 19 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals on 8-9 shooting against Korea in the Semi-Finals.

In those Semi-Finals, Kazemi went up against Choi Jun-Yong (8) who had some promising performances in the later games of Asia Cup 2017. In the final two games, Choi averaged 12.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists while shooting 57.1 percent from the field. It will be interesting to see if he returns to build up on that momentum.

Another player that could aim to build on momentum built at Asia Cup 2017 is Amjyot Singh (9) who averaged 13.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game for India. Amjyot had some strong outings at the Asia Cup Qualifiers and could be exciting to watch in Jakarta.

Closing out this group is a player who had relatively quiet Asia Cup 2017 with 5.3 points in 9.7 minutes played per game, Kazakhstan’s Nikolay Bazhin (10). However, Bazhin has been impressive in recent competitions, specifically in Window 2 of the World Cup Qualifiers where he averaged 19.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 4.0 assists while shooting 55.6 percent from the three-point line.

Don’t call it a comeback

For whatever reason, sometimes even the biggest stars miss out an Asia Cup or two. Nonetheless, whenever there’s a chance at seeing them back at the Asia Cup, it’s a big deal.

Zhou Qi (11) is somewhere up there among the biggest names in the recent history of the Asia Cup after his breakout performance in 2015 where he averaged 9.9 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per game in the championship run. The 6’11” (2.12M) center has been playing a lot for the China national team recent windows of both the Asia Cup Qualifiers and World Cup Qualifiers, so it’s hopeful that he could be making an Asia Cup return, too.

For the other two players that have missed recent Asia Cups, we go a bit back further to 2013: Ahmad Al Dwairi (12) or Jordan and Yuta Watanabe (13) of Japan.

Both Al Dwairi and Watanabe made their Asia Cup debuts in 2013 and had their moments that pointed towards a bright future. Then 20-years-old, Al Dwairi averaged 3.1 points and 2.4 rebounds per game, featuring a 10-point outing against Kazakhstan. Watanabe played a limited role as well, seeing the floor in only four games and ended up averaging 5.2 points per contest, highlighted by a 13-point game against Hong Kong.

Currently, Al Dwairi has been making more constant appearances – and playing very well – with the national team in both the Asia Cup Qualifiers and the World Cup.

Meanwhile, Watanabe continues to find opportunities in the NBA where he can put on display to the fans what he can do.

Debutants

Aside from those that we’ve already seen in the Asia Cup, there are also some players that we’d like to see make their face appearances in the competition. Some of these players have established themselves as stars in other competitions already, but have yet to make their debut in Asia’s prestigious basketball event.

One player that Asia Cup fans would be grateful to see is Olympic Bronze Medalist Matthew Dellavedova (14). There hasn’t been confirmation so far as to whether Dellavedova will be in Jakarta or not, but he’s been rostered for the third window of the World Cup Qualifiers for the Boomers which is a promising sign. “Delly” has been a featured for the Boomers for many years and it would be quite entertaining to see the former NBA guard make an Asia Cup debut without a doubt.

Two other players that fans in Jakarta will be looking out for on the court are Derrick Michael Xzavierro (15) and Marques Bolden (16). The 19-year-old Xzavierro had already made his senior national team debut back in Window 1 of the Asia Cup Qualifiers. However, it’s been quite a while and the youngster has added muscle and skills to his game since. That was evident when both he and Bolden played for Indonesia at the Southeast Asian Games recently, helping Timnas to a historic first ever gold medal. Both of these players are expected to play for the hosts at the Asia Cup and are why the home town fans are excited.

Those fans will also probably be rooting against another player expected to make an Asia Cup debut, Freddy Ibrahim (17), as Jordan and Indonesia will face each other in the Group Phase. Ibrahim made his FIBA debut back at the grand stage of the World Cup back in 2019, and has been anticipating the chance to also play at the Asia Cup as well. Ibrahim has barely slowed down since make his first appearance for the Falcons and averaged 16.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game during the Asia Cup Qualifiers.

Joining Ibrahim as possible Asia Cup debutants who have a background of previously playing in Canada is Saudi Arabia’s Khalid Abdel Gabar (18). The all-around guard has been with the team ever since their Asia Cup Pre-Qualifiers run (logging a rare triple-double in the process) and has continued to be their rock all the way through to qualification. Through the Asia Cup Qualifiers, the 31-year-old guard averaged 16.0 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game for Saudi Arabia.

There have been other stars like Ibrahim and Abdel Gabar that have starred through the Asia Cup Qualifiers, building up anticipation for their Asia Cup debut. One of the most highly anticipated of such is arguably Dwight Ramos (19). The do-it-all guard played through all six games of the Qualifiers and had his moments from a perfect game in his debut to stepping up as a leader against Korea for the Philippines. After averaging 13.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 2.0 steals per game, there’s a lot to like about the youngster who plays like a seasoned veteran and a lot to forward to seeing in Jakarta.

Amir Hinton (20) and Will Artino (21) made more recent national team debuts that some of the other players to watch here, first suiting up for Syria and Chinese Taipei, respectively, at the World Cup Qualifiers.

Hinton has been on a tear, leading all scorers across all World Cup Qualifiers with 29.8 points per game in four games played. The 25-year-old scored over 30 points in all but one game, and that should spell for an exciting Asia Cup ahead for Syria should he eventually play.

Meanwhile, Artino has had as big of an impact albeit on the rebounding side of the game. In his first three games with Chinese Taipei, Artino is averaging 13.0 rebounds per contest, good for second most in the Asian Qualifiers. He’s already expressed how much he loves playing for Chinese Taipei, so it’s pretty hopeful that the fans will see him in Jakarta.

The last player in this category is quite an odd ball. After making his senior national team debut at the FIBA Asia Challenge 2016, Japan’s Yuma Fujii (22) made a return to the squad in the first window of the World Cup Qualifiers. While his playing time has still been quite limited, Fujii has been playing at an impressive level in Japan’s B.League where he was recently named MVP a year after winning the Defensive Player of the Year and Sixth man of the year.

Former Youth National Team Stars

They grow up so fast. These former youth national team stars, whether it’s U16, U17, U18, or U19, put their potential on display earlier in their careers, and there’s a possibility that we’ll see some of that potential being realized at the Asia Cup.

Leading the list is Korea’s Heo Hoon (23) who starred for the U16 national team back in 2011 at Nha Trang, Vietnam. The son of legendary coach Hur Jae averaged 13.2 points at that event and continued to impress at the U17 World Cup and U19 World Cup in the following years. Heo has made senior national team appearances here and there, even at the Asia Cup Qualifiers, but if he makes the final cut to play in Jakarta, it will be his first Asia Cup.

Aside from Heo, there are a lot of highly talented young players that have gone through Korea’s youth national team system. Lee HyunJung (24) might be one of the best in recent memory – and he might even play at Asia Cup 2022. Lee has been a part of nearly every youth national team that is eligible for, but his breakout performance was in 2018 at the U18 Asian Championship where he led the tournament in points, assists, and steals. At that event, Lee averaged 26.0 points, 10.3 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 3.3 steals and 1.2 blocks per contest. It was clear even then that he was a unique talent and he showed everyone once again when he made his senior national team debut at the Asia Cup Qualifiers.

The list of young stars that played in the U18 Asian Championship that had breakout performances recently at the Asia Cup Qualifiers or World Cup Qualifiers doesn’t end at just Lee. Fans who watched these competitions will also recognize the names of Kai Sotto (25)Muzamil Hamoda (26), and Yousef Khayat (27). This trio were actually underaged at the U18 competition that year, but impressed with the level of play that outshined their elder peers.

Sotto has long been considered as the Philippines best prospect and hasn’t disappointed, even when he stepped up to play with the seniors. In three games during the Asia Cup Qualifiers, Sotto averaged 9.3 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, though it was clear that he will have the potential and opportunities to do more in the future. Maybe that chance will come at the Asia Cup in Jakarta.

Hamoda also quickly showed what he was capable of, averaging 11.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game in his first 4 games with the senior national team in the Asia Cup Qualifiers. He’s spent the past couple of years elevating his game in the USA and fans will hopefully get to see how much he’s improved when he suits up in Asia Cup 2022.

While Sotto was developing in Australia and Hamoda in the USA, Lebanon’s Khayat was improving his game in France. The 19-year-old did not play at the Asia Cup Qualifiers, instead making his debut at the World Cup Asian Qualifiers and quickly turned heads. The forward put his improved athleticism on display and has averaged 7.3 points and 1.8 rebounds per game in his first four games with Lebanon.

Not to be outdone by the 2018 class of the U18 Asian Championship, the 2015 Class of the U16 Asian Championship have been impressive as well in their senior national team careers. Leading that class are Chinese Taipei’s Lin Ting-Chien (28) and Lebanon’s Karim Zeinoun (29) (also noting the Lee HyunJung is a part of this class as well).

Ever since playing at the U16 Asian Championship and U17 World Cup, Lin has always been pegged as a player to watch for the future of Chinese Taipei basketball. When he was finally listed to make a FIBA debut with the senior national team at the Qualifying Tournament for Third-Ranked teams, the buzz in anticipation of watching him was loud. And the youngster did not disappoint. In those two games against Guam, it was Lin-sanity when Lin scored a total of 50 points across both contests while also knocking down the clutch shot to seal the deal.

Zeinoun’s performance with the senior national team has been a bit less dramatic, but just as productive. The 22-year-old played in all six games of the Qualifiers and averaged a cool 25.2 minutes to put up 12.5 points per game on 50 percent shooting from downtown.

With both Lebanon and Chinese Taipei transitioning into the younger generation of talents, look for these two to step up into larger roles.

Last but not least, another player to potentially watch out for in Asia Cup 2022 is U18 Asian Championship 2018 standout Maxwell Darling (30) of New Zealand. Darling was solid in both the U18 and U19 competitions, averaging 13.4 points and 7.7 rebounds per game across both events. He has yet to make a senior national team debut but has been playing well in professional leagues in New Zealand, Croatia, Romania, and Australia.

And that’s 30! It’s such a limited list for so many players that we’d like to see, so don’t be shy and tell us who you are looking forward to watch in Asia Cup 2022. In the meanwhile, stay tuned to FIBA Asia Cup 2022 on all social media accounts and don’t forget to watch the games from July 12-24 in Jakarta, Indonesia!

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