wang_zhelinIf you’ve been following the Chinese national basketball team for the past decade and change, one thing has been a constant with that team. No. 14. Wang Zhizhi. From the days playing with Menk Batere to Yao Ming to this current crop of young basketball stars, the man affectionately known as “Master Wang” has played with all of them.

That’s why it seems weird that when the national team coach Panagiotis Giannakis submitted his 12-man team for the 27th FIBA Asia Championship, the No. 14 jersey will belong to a Wang, albeit a different one: Wang Zhelin.

The 19-year old 7-footer, hailed as the “future of Chinese basketball” will wear the jersey of the beloved national icon who was surprisingly left out of the team after years of being its emotional leader. Watching China at the FIBA Asia Championships in Manila next week without seeing a glimpse of the silky southpaw will take some getting used to. In some respects, Wang Zhizhi’s exclusion from the national team can be seen as a changing of the guard; the last remaining link to the Yao Ming-led national team, being left out of a team that now has to rely on stalwarts Liu Wei and Zhou Peng for veteran leadership. It now is a team that has seven players aged 24 or younger, a stark contrast from the veteran-laden squads that romped through Asian basketball in year’s past.

No more is this so-called youth movement in Chinese basketball best exemplified by the addition of the Wang Zhelin. As a highly touted NBA prospect, Wang Zhelin will undoubtedly have a ton of pressure on his shoulders to help China retain its FIBA Asia title. At the very least, despite being all of seven feet tall, this 19-year old nevertheless has huge shoes to fill from a man whose jersey number he now has on his back.

The Chinese national team is still loaded and it still has star Yi Jianlin in its side, not to mention established pros in Sun Yue and Wang Shipeng. But make no mistake, all eyes will be on the young Wang Zhelin. Foreign scouts will be there to see how he stacks up against the competition. His own basketball federation will be there to see how far he’s progressed.

But most importantly, all of China will be looking at him to see if he deserves to take the baton from a Chinese basketball legend who has meant so much to the success of the national team in the past 10 years.

It’s not about the jersey number, so they say. It’s about what you do wearing it when the lights are on.

 (Image taken from OregonLive.)



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Since it made its debut the tournament in 1960, the FIBA Asia Championships has been known to serve two purposes: to determine who the best basketball team in Asia and more importantly, to serve as a springboard tournament for the World Championships and the Olympics.

So this tournament is a pretty big deal, especially for countries that have deep roots in basketball. During the first 15 years of the tournament, the Philippines was widely regarded as the best team in the continent, winning four of the first seven tournaments and placing second in two others.

All that changed though when China entered the picture in 1975. Like a conquering group of giants from the East wielding basketballs as its weapon of choice, the Chinese national basketball team has dominated Asian basketball since the first day it stepped foot on the basketball court.

The numbers cementing China’s dominance in Asian basketball are staggering. It’s played 149 games in the tournament and has a sparkling 140-9 record to show for it with five of those losses coming in the 2007 tournament when it sent it’s ‘B’ team to play after already snagging a spot in the 2008 Beijing Olympics by virtue of being the host country. It’s only lost to three teams – the Philippines, South Korea, and Iran – since 1975 when you take those five losses out of the equation. It has 15 first place finishes, 10 more than its next closest rival, the Philippines, which has five.

The FIBA Asia Championships have become China’s playground for the better part of four decades. It’s only been in the past decade where some of the other Asian countries have closed the competitive gap with the losses to South Korea and Iran coming in 1997 and 2009, respectively.

With the 2013 FIBA Asia Championships set to be held in Manila, China is once again considered the odds-on favorite to add yet another Asian title to its overflowing trophy case. It’ll face some competition against the likes of Iran, Jordan, and the Philippines, but make no mistake, Asian basketball supremacy runs through the Great Wall.

And if history has shown us anything, that wall is pretty damn hard to pass through.

(Image taken from Inquirer Sports.)



The tournament will cover a preliminary round, a second round, and a final round, determining the order of finishes for teams involved along the way.

All in all, 16 teams will be competing in the tournament with four teams grouped into four divisions. The groups are as follows:

Chinese Taipei Hong Kong China Bahrain
Jordan Japan Iran India
Philippines Lebanon Korea Kazakhstan
Saudi Arabia Qatar Malaysia Thailand

Each team will play three games inside their division with the top three teams from each division moving into the second round. The bottom four teams for each division will face off to determine classifications 13-16.

The 12 teams that move into the Second Round will be split into two and classified under Group E and Group F with teams carrying forward the results of their games against the other qualifiers from the Preliminary Round. Of the 12 teams, eight will move on to the final round with the two bottom teams from Groups E and F participating in another classification round to determine places 9-12.

The Quarter Finals and the Semi Finals of the tournament are classified under the Final Round.  The brackets for the Quarter Finals will pit the top team from Group E taking on the fourth place team from Group F. The same follows with the top team from Group F taking on the fourth place team from Group E while the second place team from Group E takes on the third place team from Group F and vice versa.

From there, the winner of the 1E vs 4F QF will face the winner of the 3E vs 2F QF to make up the first semi-finals game with the other semis game featuring the winner of the 1F vs 4E QF and 3F vs 2E QF games.

The losing teams from the Quarter Finals will have their own classification round to determine places 5-8.

The winner of the two semi-finals games will then determine who plays in the Finals with the losers playing in another classification game to determine who finishes 3rd and 4th in the tournament. This is an important game for both teams because whoever wins books a seat at the 2013 FIBA World Championships in Spain.

At its conclusion, the last two teams standing will play for the FIBA Asia Championship title after each securing a spot to play at the 2014 FIBA World Championships by virtue of reaching the finals.