October 26, 2013

Indian Women hope to take next step at 25th FIBA Asia Championship for Women in Bangkok

Francisco Garcia, the Spaniard who was appointed Head Coach of India's Women's basketball squad in July, will now face the biggest challenge of his young tenure as he leads the team to Bangkok, Thailand for the 25th FIBA Asia Championship for Women. The tournament will tip off on October 27th, 2013 and is slated to be held until November 3rd.

India will start this year in the tournament's 'Level I', which means that they will play only the best teams in the tournament in the Preliminary Round and can theoretically qualify for the knockout stages. Level I will feature champions from the previous tournament in 2011 (and 11x winners) China, 2011 silver-medalists Korea, Japan, Chinese Taipei, and Kazakhstan, all posing a challenge to the Indian side.

India's roster includes superstar center Geethu Anna Jose, who will be playing in her fifth FIBA Asia Championship. Jose has always been amongst the leading scorers and rebounders in Asia, and was the third-leading scorer in 2011. She is joined by her Southern Railway experienced teammate Anitha Pauldurai. The remainder of the squad is an exciting mix of experienced talents and fresh blood to amp up the team's energy. Jeena PS, the talented young Keralite, is one of those young talents who can be a big star for the future and will be looking to make her presence felt. Former captain Prashanti Singh will be making a comeback into the team after missing out due to fitness issues last year. Prashanti's sister Akanksha suffered an injury during the team's practice games in Dongguan (China) and has been replaced by Rajapriyadarshini Rajaganapathi.

India's Senior Women's Squad for 25th FIBA Asia Championship
  • S. Kokila
  • Anitha Paul Durai
  • Raspreet Sidhu
  • Sharanjeet Kaur
  • Jeena PS
  • Shireen Limaye
  • Stephy Nixon
  • Smruthi Radhakrishnan
  • Manisha Dange
  • Geethu Anna Jose
  • Prashanti Singh
  • Rajapriyadarshini Rajaganapathi
  • Head Coach: Francisco Garcia
  • Coach: Abdul Hameed Khan
  • Manager: Jayavanti Shyam
To prepare for the tournament, the team headed to Dongguan, China, from October 15-25 for practice/preparation games at the NBA/CBA Basketball School there.

Participating Teams
  • Level 1: China, Chinese Taipei, India, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea.
  • Level 2: Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Uzbekistan.
India's Preliminary Round schedule: (All times IST)
  • October 27 - 2:30 PM - Chinese Taipei vs. India
  • October 28 - 12:30 PM - India vs. Korea
  • October 29 - 12:30 PM - China vs. India
  • October 30 - 2:30 PM - Japan vs. India
  • October 31 - 12:30 PM - India vs. Kazakhstan
Two years ago, India lost all five of their preliminary round games, but were able to defeat Malaysia in a close encounter for the Level I playoff game to finish sixth and remain in Level I.

India will once again face a mighty struggle breaking into the top four of teams that dominate Asian Women's hoops: China, Korea, Japan, and Chinese Taipei. Their best chance of getting a Preliminary Round win is against Kazakhstan, who are currently listed below them in the FIBA Rankings. If India can somehow win one more game and finish in the top four, they will have the chance to qualify for the knockout stage. If they finish 5th or 6th in the group, they will play in playoff games against the 1st or 2nd seeded teams in Level II to determine if they can remain in Level I for the next edition of the championship (in 2015).

In an interview with me earlier in the year, Garcia spoke about his preference for transition offense and playing tough defense on the other end of the floor. The star of the team - and the one the entire offense will revolve around - will still be Jose, who, at 28, still has several years left in her prime. Hopefully she has adapted to his offensive schemes and the players around her are ready to support her play. Jose herself mentioned to FIBA earlier this month that she was optimistic about this year's squads, since there are many other bigs in India to take some of the pressure off of her in the post.

Five months ago, a squad of Jose, Anitha, Manisha Dange, and Pratima Singh led India to the gold medal in the inagural 3x3 FIBA Asia Championship. It was the continuation of recent success for India at 3x3 championships, after they won the 3x3 gold at the Asian Beach Games in China last year. Now, they hope to carry that form into the full-format of the game. In 15 appearances, India has never finished better than 6th in the FIBA Asia Championship. Garcia and his team will be looking to change history and finally take a step up in the competition over the next week.

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