Before I begin the recap for each team, I must say how disappointing it is that the only games broadcast over the first three games of the tournament were of the host-country Latvian team. If FIBA’s mission is to create a world-wide competition with passionate fans they failed completely. Really, I watched online games broadcast from gyms in rural Colorado and Wyoming this year, how can FIBA (or is it Latvia) not ensure that every game is available to fans?
The Chinese team came in with the most confidence and the highest expectations of the three teams. With a FIBA ranking of 16, the Chinese came in expecting to get out of the preliminary stage of the tournament. Unfortunately for them, Egypt rose to the occasion to play inspired basketball against the Chinese and stole the game in double overtime. In a tournament with few other upsets, that loss ended the Chinese team’s hopes for advancing.
Individually a few of the Chinese players were able to produce solid stat lines. The most famous player on the team, Guo Ailun played sparingly in the final game, but averaged 19 ppg, 3.5 rpg, and 4.5 apg in the first two contests. Unfortunately for Guo, the 12 turnovers in those first two games take away from the impressiveness of the previous numbers. Actually, the entire Chinese squad struggled to control the ball and averaged over 18 turnovers per match during the first three days.
Along with Guo, the other bright spots for the Chinese team were the play of Zhai Xiaochuan and Wang Zirui. Zhai led the team in both scoring and rebounding posting averages of 16.3 ppg and 7.3 rpg. At 6’8” Zhai has really nice size for the Small Forward position. Wang is lesser known than some of his teammates, but showed that that should not be the case. The Zhejiang Guangsha junior team point guard finished with a well-rounded stat line of 12.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg, and 3.7 apg.
The Korean squad came in with very little press, just as you would expect for a team that was not ranked highly, but was also not considered to be one of the weakest squads (Taiwan and Tunisia filled that role). As such, the Koreans came out and shocked most people with their play over the three days. On the first day the Koreans took a lead into the last minute against the Canadians, only to squander it on turnovers and fouls.
After getting demolished by the Lithuanian boys on Day 2, the Koreans came out with the biggest upset of the tournament by defeating the Croatian team. While this win is impressive, and the Koreans should be congratulated, it needs to be noted that the Croatians sat their starting PG and C for the entire game. Korea and China will go head to head on Monday, July 4th.
The Taiwanese team came to the tournament marked as the “small fish” or “last man picked.” Their coach, Huang Wan-lung did nothing to dispel this when he was quoted as saying “I tell my guys let's make friends here because basketball is just a game so we need to enjoy ourselves and makes friends amongst the other players and coaches.” Somehow I do not think that the Latvian team they faced on the first day were told to have fun and make friends by their coach before the game. With no pressure on them, the Taiwanese squad lived up to expectations . . . and lost all three of their games.
The problem for the Taiwanese was truly one of size. Their average height was over 6 cm shorter than the next shortest team. It is no surprise that they had difficulty rebounding against the taller international competition. In the game against Latvia the Taiwanese were outrebounded 57-17. The Latvians were able to grab 24 offensive rebounds against their over-matched opponents. The trio of Hung Kang-chiao, Chen Ying-chun, and Hu Long-mao played relatively well showing flashes of the basketball talent there is in Taiwan. Watch for those three to make their way on to the Senior National Team in the next few years.
In a few hours the Koreans and Chinese will face off and the Taiwanese will go up against the Tunisian squad. While there is no way to move above 13th, we can only hope that the teams all play to their fullest potential to showcase a little of the talent and potential present here in Asia.