In a couple of weeks, our basketball-crazy nation will discover the answer to the question "Are we still any good in international basketball?" via the Powerade-Team Pilipinas' stint in the ongoing Fiba-Asia Championships in Tianjin, China. For the few Pinoys who doesn't give a shit about basketball, the tournament's top three finishers earn the right to represent Asia in the prestigious World Championships next year. We list then the five players of the five teams that could scuttle our hopes—Japan and South Korea being our group mates pose imminent danger; Lebanon, Iran, and China, meanwhile are arguably considered the continent's Big Three.
Hamed Ehadadi (Iran)
Asked how he led Iran to victory at the 2007 Fiba-Asia Championships, the Middle East country's former head coach and current Smart Gilas Philippine national team mentor, Rajko Toroman, attributed it to one thing: "We had Hamed Ehadadi." Athletic at 7'2" and with double-double points and rebounds averages for both the 2007 Fiba-Asia Championships and 2008 Olympics—where he also led the tournament in blocks per game—Ehadadi is widely recognized as Asia's second best center behind China's Yao Ming. The Memphis Grizzlies were likewise impressed that they signed him as a free agent.
Fadi El-Khatib (Lebanon)
A regular member of Lebanon's national basketball team and dubbed the "Michael Jordan of Asia," El-Khatib is known for being an exceptional inside operator with a deft shooting touch. He first came to prominence in the 2006 World Championships when he averaged closed to 18 points per game. He continued his high-scoring ways by averaging a whopping 27ppg in the 2007 Fiba-Asia en route to leading his nation to a second-place finish.
WORDS: B.A. BORLEO
ILLUSTRATION: FRANTZ ARNO SALVADOR