September 7, 2016

India's Men's Basketball team heads to Tehran for 2016 FIBA Asia Challenge: Roster, Schedule, & Preview

Two years ago, India enjoyed their biggest basketball victory in an 80-year history with the game, defeating Asia's number one ranked team, China, on their home turf, at the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup in Wuhan. The victory signaled India taking a bold new step forward in the game, as the team showed the fearlessness to challenge the continent's best teams.

Two years later, the name of the tournament has since changed. But even in its new avatar as the 2016 FIBA Asia Challenge, India will hope to continue their path to improvement and cause another shock or two to Asian superpowers. The tournament will be held at the Twelve Thousand People Sport Hall, located in the north & south of the main street of the Azadi Sport Complex. Host Iran is the defending champion while India finished at 7th place in 2014.

An 18-member Indian contingent, featuring 12 players and coaching and management staff, will be travelling to Tehran, Iran for the FIBA Asia Challenge that will be held from September 9-18. Centre Amrit Pal Singh will be captaining the side and the team will be led by Head Coach Sat Prakash Yadav with Assistant Coach CV Sunny.

Earlier this week, I wrote an in-depth preview of Team India's preparation in previous tournaments, balance of roster, and their tactical approach, including an interview of Coach Sunny, for Ekalavyas. Check out the full preview - Ready for the Challenge - here.

India qualified for Tehran after winning the South Asian Basketball Qualifiers held in Bengaluru in July. The FIBA Asia Challenge will feature 12 teams divided into four Preliminary Round groups. India is placed in Group B along with Philippines and Chinese Taipei.

The final twelve members of the squad who will represent India at the FIBA Asia Challenge were selected at the end of a nearly one month long training camp held at NMAM Institute of Technology (NITTE) in Karkala, Udupi district of coastal Karnataka.

While the Indian side remains largely unchanged from last month’s 38th William Jones Cup International Basketball Tournament, there are a couple of key changes. Veteran swingman and defensive stopper Yadwinder Singh returns to the team, and is expected to provide much needed versatility on both ends of the floor in terms of matchups. Also, teenager Hariram Ragupathy, one of the stars from India’s historic 8th place finish at the 2016 FIBA Asia U18 Championship, makes his debut into the senior team.

A small ceremony was held at the NITTE campus to bid farewell to the Indian squad, which was attended by Chander Mukhi Sharma, Secretary General of Basketball Federation of India (BFI).

“On behalf of BFI I convey my sincere thanks to NITTE University management, who for the last two years have been continuously providing us all the training facilities for the Indian team. This is one of the best campus facilities I have seen,” said Mr Sharma.

Addressing the departing contingent, he said, “Ultimately, it is the outcome of your efforts which will benefit basketball in India. You are the players who are icons for all other players in the country. So I wish you all the success and that you put up a performance that is even better than in all the previous championships that you have attended.”

Team India for 2016 FIBA Asia Challenge
  • Arshpreet Bhullar
  • Vishesh Bhriguvanshi
  • Amrit Pal Singh - captain
  • Basil Philip
  • Yadwinder Singh
  • Rikin Pethani
  • Ravi Bhardwaj
  • Hariram Ragupathy
  • Amjyot Singh
  • Prasanna Sivakumar
  • Akilan Pari
  • TJ Sahi
  • Head Coach: Sat Prakash Yadav
  • Coach: CV Sunny
  • Physiotherapist: Nikhil NP
  • Manager: Shaktikumar Mahipatsinh Gohil
  • FIBA Commissioner: Norman Swaroop Issac
  • Referee: Atanu Banerjee

The FIBA Asia Challenge was previously known as the FIBA Asia Cup. It is the first step in the qualification process for the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup.

The top 5 teams will earn for their respective sub-zones an extra berth at the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup, which will be the first inter-continental tournament featuring teams from both Asia and Oceania (like Australia & New Zealand). The top teams from the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup in turn qualify for the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

Preliminary Round Grouping
  • Group A: China, Jordan, Kazakhstan
  • Group B: Philippines, India, Chinese Taipei
  • Group C: Iran, Qatar, Iraq
  • Group D: Japan, Korea, Thailand
India’s Preliminary Round Schedule (all times IST)
  • India vs Philippines – 9th September, 09:45 PM
  • India vs Chinese Taipei – 10th September, 05:15 PM
Both Preliminary Round opponents (Philippines and Chinese Taipei) are ranked higher than India, but there is reason for India to feel confident after the preparation matches at the William Jones Cup last month against the two Taipei teams and Mighty Sports at the William Jones Cup. India defeated Taipei’s “B” team and lost to the “A” team in overtime. Chinese Taipei will be without many of their experienced stars at the FIBA Asia Challenge, although India will have to watch out for the explosive talents of Quincy Davis. Meanwhile, the Philippines will be sending a team without naturalised players and won’t have too many stars from their domestic league in this national team.

The format at this tournament is a strange one. All twelve participating teams from the four preliminary round groups will qualify for the second round, regardless of their results, but carrying on their previous win/loss records. They will be placed into two new groups of six teams each in the Second Round, and the top four teams from each of these groups (a total of eight) will then qualify for the Quarter-Final/Knockout stage.

India is likely to cross paths later in the tournament with several more of the favourites, including two-time winners Iran, who will feature Asian basketball legend Hamed Haddadi, and China, who are once again sending a weaker team but will still be a handful to deal with. India will hope to finish with a better record than teams like Kazakhstan, Thailand, and Qatar, and if they can finish in the top four of the Second Round, they will be looking at another top eight finish and the Quarter-Final stage.

Check out my column for Ekalavyas for a more in-depth preview.

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