October 4, 2015

China romp to FIBA Asia 2015 title; India improve to 8th place

China, one of the top basketball teams in the continent, hosted Asia's biggest basketball tournament, the 2015 FIBA Asia Basketball Championship (ABC) in Changsha from September 23 to October 3. Featuring four seven-footers, the hosts were the biggest team in the tournament, were backed by fervent home support and put in the longest duration of practice in preparation for this tournament. All of this resulted in the obvious conclusion: after coming up short in 2013, China showed their class over the competition this year by going undefeated through the course of the 2015 FIBA ABC to win the gold medal and automatically qualify for the basketball tournament at the Rio Olympics next year.

Closer to home, despite losing their final three games at the tournament, Team India returned from Changsha with their heads held high, making it to the Quarter-Finals of the tournament for the first time since 2013 and finishing at their highest position (8th) in the last 12 years.

The tournament's finale featured two of the biggest hoop-loving nations in Asia: China and 2013 silver-medalists Philippines. While China had qualified for the final with an unblemished record, the Philippines had a rockier journey - including an opening night loss - but had up made up for their hiccups with strong performances at the biggest moments. The final on Saturday, October 3rd was a defensive, ugly game of basketball, but China rose to the challenge to take care of business when it most counted. China took an eight point lead by halftime, dominating against the Philippines who struggled shooting the ball from the field all night. China's size had enough advantage over Philippines' Andray Blatche (17 points) to nullify his efforts all night. Guo Ailun scored a game-high 19 for China while young talent Zhou Qi added 16 to go with 14 rebounds. China held on to their advantage and won 78-67.

Earlier on Saturday, 2013 champions Iran survived a topsy-turvy game against Japan to win 68-63 and secure third place at the tournament. Mohammadsamad Nik Khahbahrami was fantastic all night, scoring 35 points to pace Iran's victory. Keijuro Matsui led Japan with 18. After Iran took a 12-point lead in the first quarter, Japan came storming back to make it a two-point game by halftime, and continued their momentum to lead 48-44 at the end of the third period. Iran saved their best for last, and Khahbahrami's hot shooting carried them to a win.

At the semi-final stage on Friday, Japan and the Philippines were deadlocked for three quarter before Jayson William (20) helped his team overcome a tough-shooting night and carried them to the final with a 81-70 win. Andray Blatche scored 22 for Philippines while captain Donaldo Hontiveros added 18. For Japan, Makoto Hiejima scored a game high 28 and Joji Takeuchi added 18. In the previous semi-final, the winners of the last eight FIBA ABCs - China and Iran - squared off. China started the game off aggressively, taking a 21-12 early lead, and kept up the momentum to win this clash of titans. China overcame 18 points and seven rebounds by Mohammadsamad Nik Khahbahrami and 16 and 11 by Hamed Haddadi.

China's Yi Jianlian was named the MVP of the tournament.

Despite domestic turmoil, the 2015 FIBA ABC turned out to be a fruitful tournament for Team India. India sent a tweaked 12-member squad to Changsha, featuring new head coach Sat Prakash Yadav and minus the presence of many veteran players, but they did well enough to finish the tournament with a 3-6 record at 8th place.

India were placed in Preliminary Round Group A along with reigning champions Iran, eventual fourth-place finishers Japan, and Malaysia. India's start against Malaysia was on the right foot. Dominating offensively, India blew out the game in the first three quarters and relaxed in the fourth to cruise to a comfortable 102-73 victory. Amjyot Singh collected 24 points and 10 rebounds for India, point guard Akilan Pari added 18 with six assists, and Yadwinder Singh had 16 and seven rebounds in India's win. Malaysia's Ivan Yeo had 18 points and 10 rebounds in a losing effort.

The going got much tougher for India in the second game against Iran, who started the game on a 27-11 run, leaving India chasing the scoreboard for the next three quarters. India showed some heart to close the gap to nine at halftime, but they were outclassed by Iran after halftime, who went on to win 88-66. Mohammad Hassanzadeh Saberi A had 18 for the winning side, overcoming a fantastic 27 point-9 rebound performance by Amjyot Singh.

India started off on a good foot against Japan, leading 18-15 at the end of the first quarter, but eventually, the Japanese pace and shooting was too much for the Indians to handle. Japan reclaimed the lead at halftime and kept on the pressure in the second half all the way to a 83-65 win. Joji Takeuchi was unstoppable with 22 points and 19 rebounds in Japan's win. Makoto Hiejima added 19 in Japan's win. India were paced by captain Vishesh Bhriguvanshi (24 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists) and, as usual, by Amjyot Singh (19 points, 10 rebounds).

India's solitary victory against Malaysia was good enough to qualify them for Second Round Group E, where they opened their accounts against the upstart and thus-far undefeated Palestine side. In what turned out to be the country's most crucial game, India relied on a brilliant, clutch performance by Amjyot Singh (32 points, 11 rebounds) to inch past Palestine 73-70. It was a crucial win for India, who, after a positive start, found themselves trailing by four at halftime. But Amjyot helped India bounce back up in the second half and keep up the lead until the end of the close second half. Bhriguvanshi helped out with 17 for India. Sani Sakakini (23), Jamal Abu Shamala (21), and Salim Sakakini (16) were Palestine's leading scorers.

India were caught napping early in their contest early next morning against Hong Kong, who came out stronger than expected and gave India a run for their money. Once again, it was the class of Amjyot (26 points, 12 rebounds) that proved to be the difference maker. India were down by five early and trailed 39-34 at halftime. But they finally gained the lead halfway in the fourth quarter and held on to their advantage en route to a 76-71 win. Yadwinder Singh had 18 points for India and Bhriguvanshi added 16. Chun Wai Wong (21), Siu Wing Chan (17), and Duncan Reid (16) were Hong Kong's leading scorers.

Fueled by two recent wins, India started off well against the Philippines in their last Second Round game, and led 17-16 at the end of the first quarter despite a tough-shooting night from their star Amjyot Singh. Eventually however, Philippines put their stamp on the game, playing efficient and unselfish basketball to blow India out easily, 99-65. Terrance Romeo led Philippines with 20, while India were paced by Bhriguvanshi (21) and Amrit Pal Singh (18 points, 13 rebounds).

Despite this loss, India's win against the Palestine was enough to ensure that they finished in a top four position in Group E and qualified for the tournament's Quarter-Final, where they faced the mighty Chinese. Ensuring that there would be no repeat of India's FIBA Asia Cup heroics from last year, China showed no mercy to India, dominating the game on both ends to win easily, 104-58. Yi Jianlian had 21 points and seven rebounds for China. For India, captain Bhriguvanshi impressed with a game-high 22 points while Yadwinder Singh added 16.

Out of semi-final contention, India were relegated to the 5-8th place classification games. They first played against Korea, and despite a semi-competitive start, India couldn't keep up with the frenetic offensive pace of their opponents for the rest of the game. Korea dominated India on the way to a 117-72 win, led by Tae Young Moon (22) and Sung Min Cho (10). Amjyot had 24 for India in the loss while Amrit Pal Singh added 18.

India's final game of the tournament was against Qatar, and they finished matter with a sour taste left in their mouths. India came out soft against Qatar, who opened up a 21 point halftime lead and left India with too much of a gap to cover after the break. Mohamed Hassan A
Mohamed scored 28 for Qatar and Mohammed Abdullah and Abduallah Matalkeh added 16 each. Amjyot Singh led India with 21 while Arvind Arumugam made the most of his minutes to score 16.

The Qatar loss was perhaps India's only underachievement of the competition, as they won all the other games where they were favoured to, and went a step further with the crucial win over Palestine. Their 8th place finish sees them finish in the top 10 for the first time in a dozen years.

India should be most proud and excited by the performances of 23-year-old Amjyot Singh, the Chandigarh-born player who is currently playing with the Tokyo Excellence of Japan's D-League. Amjyot, India's leading scorer, finished as the fourth-best scorer of the entire championship (20.9 ppg) and the ninth-best rebounder (8.3 rpg). He also played the tournament's third-most minutes (37 mpg). Captain Vishesh Bhriguvanshi enjoyed a good showing in Changsha, too, averaging 14 points and 4.8 assists per game, good for second-best in Changsha. Although Center Amrit Pal Singh wasn't as consistent as expected, he did a good job defensively and was strong on the boards. The performances of forward Yadwinder Singh and point guard Akilan Pari were also commendable.

India did especially well since they rolled out a team without the likes of Narendar Grewal, Pratham Singh, Rikin Pethani, Joginder Singh, Prasanna Venkatesh, and of course, new NBA-draftee Satnam Singh. The lack of so many talents completely deprived India of a deep bench, and thus, the big three of Amjyot, Amrit Pal, and Bhriguvanshi were forced to play big minutes and carry a heavy burden all tournament. Although they did well for stretches, fatigue eventually caught up with them and India missed a chance to spring a few more surprises. India could've finished a spot or two higher in the rankings if they were at full strength in Changsha.

Still, the performance showed that India - particularly Amjyot - are continuing to take strong strides in improvement in the continent and will continue to evolve into a team to fear over the next few years.

Final Standings
  • 1. China
  • 2. Philippines
  • 3. Iran
  • 4. Japan
  • 5. Lebanon
All Tournament Team
  • Yi Jianlian (China) - MVP
  • Guo Ailun (China)
  • Zhou Qi (China)
  • Jayson William (Philippines)
  • Mohammadsamad Nik Khahbahrami (Iran)


  1. 2 questions - why didn't satnam play and can u tell us a bit more about how u think India would have finished a spot higher if we had full strength - who are these players - Narendar Grewal, Pratham Singh, Rikin Pethani, Joginder Singh, Prasanna Venkatesh. Appreciate it hoopistani!

    1. Ever since he got drafted by the Mavericks, Satnam has decided to focus on practicing for his D-League team to make it to their roster; he didn't want to return to India over the summer and disturb the D-League practice schedule.

      Narender, Pratham, Joginder, Rikin, Prasanna were all part of Team India the last year, but didn't play in the tournament this year for various reasons. If they were playing, India would've had much more depth and experience and a deeper rotation. This way, guys like Vishesh, Amjyot, and Amrit Pal wouldn't have been overworked or exhausted. With the team fully healthy and ready, I feel we could've beaten Qatar and finished 7th, or maybe even sprung an upset or two against Japan or Korea.

  2. its so good to hear that u think if we were at full strength we would have finished sevent! Some time back enzo tweeted that next year jordan clarkson will join the philipines and when i read that i was gutted cause who do we have like him? No one. Im not saying someone who is playing in the nba, but some player of their skill we have noooo one. On the fiba ranking we are ranked 61 out of 80 countries... our neighbours china, geographically speaking are ranked 14th! Why are we so behind basketball just cause of cricket? thats a lame excuse and its not bonn cut it anymore yaar i wish we were a better basketball nation. why are we so bad but u made my day saying if we were at full strength india would have beaten quatar. BTW, while were at this subject, india lost to south africa yesterday and on times now, the sports news, the first 10 headlines were, take a wild guess! CRICKET and then one headline about soccer. BASKETBALL? NON-EXISTENT TO MOST INDIAN NEWS CHANNELS. has any tv channel mentioned anything about the fiba asia cup? NO. THIS IS SO PISSING OF AND SEEING INDIA 61 OUT OF 80 TEAMS HURTS SO MUCH

    1. Yes, India has actually done pretty well considering how messed up the domestic organization of basketball is. We have some very talented players and it is mostly on their skills that we have able to compete with Asia's best. I hope India's FIBA ranking rises by the end of this year after the improved performances. And yes, unfortunately, cricket continues to get the brunt of media attention - good or bad. Things will start changing if an Indian starts to make waves in basketball abroad and when we finally have our own pro league back home.

  3. i know this is like a discussion but i enjoy talking about indian basketball and look forward to your reply every time! - by how many ranks do u think we should improve and when, when are we gonna have our own pro ball league

  4. Since we made quarter final this year, i think we may rise 5-7 spots up. Unfortunately, there's still no update on pro league in india, the BFI is in complete disarray right now

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