[Asian Games] Groupmates Iran, Philippines yet to find hoop luck in recent Asiad editions




MANILA (The Filipino Connection)–Three-time FIBA Asia titlists Iran and the Philippines had been too familiar with each other’s games over the years.

Many times, the Iranians have frustrated the Filipinos in FIBA-sanctioned tournaments like the old FIBA-Asia Champions Cup, the current FIBA-Asia Cup, and the most recent edition of the FIBA-Asia Championships in Manila. One rare time the Philippines’ Gilas team had beaten the Iranians was in the 2012 William Jones Cup, which a rag-tag Filipino squad surprisingly won.

If Iran has towering 7’2″ center Hamed Haddadi and versatile 6’8″ wingman Sahmad Nikkhah Bahrami together, Filipinos have a hard time beating the Iranians. In that 77-75 upset by Gilas at the 2012 Jones Cup, Haddadi wasn’t around.

Those tales will be rekindled at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, Korea when the 2013 FIBA Asia Championships’ top two placers face each other early on in the second round. (The 2014 Asian Games will be held from Sept. 14-Oct. 3.)

Gilas Pilipinas and familiar nemesis Iran are groupmates in the second round of basketball competitions in this year's Asian Games in Incheon, Korea. The last time the two countries squared off was during this game at the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Wuhan, China, which Iran ruled unscathed..  But the quadrennial "Olympics of Asia" isn't the two countries' turf. (Photo by FIBA Asia)

Gilas Pilipinas and familiar nemesis Iran are groupmates in the second round of basketball competitions in this year’s Asian Games in Incheon, Korea. The last time the two countries squared off was during this game at the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Wuhan, China, a meet which Iran ruled unscathed. But basketball at the quadrennial “Olympics of Asia” isn’t the two countries’ turf. (Photo by FIBA Asia)

Both squads’ preparation for Incheon will be the forthcoming FIBA World Cup in Spain.

Yet in between the FIBA Asia tournaments under a four-year cycle is the Asian Games. The best Iran can figure there was a bronze medal during the 2010 Guangzhou Asiad, as well as the 2006 Asian Games in Doha. The Philippines’ last Asian Games medal was a bronze in 1998, held in Bangkok.

The Asian Games is a territory of long-time gold medalists and FIBA-Asia champions China and Korea. The Koreans are remembered for giving the Philippines its biggest heartache, given a buzzer-beating triple at the 2002 Busan Asian Games semifinals.

That Korean curse was broken when Gilas beat the taller Koreans, 86-79, in last year’s FIBA-Asia Championships.

But Asian basketball’s new generation is Iranian-dominated. Iran’s continental hoops breakthrough started in 2007 when it won its first FIBA Asia Championship in Tokushima, Japan. Prior to the feat, Iran’s best showing at the old Asian Basketball Confederation (ABC) Championships was third in 1993; the worst was 19th in 1959.

The 2007 win earned for Iran its first stint in the Olympic Games after 60 years, placing 11 out of 12 teams at the 2008 Olympiad in Beijing.

Haddadi and Bahrami then led Iran again to the 2009 FIBA Asia title, held this time in Tianjin, China. The hosts will never forget the 52-70 beating the Iranians gave them in the gold medal match. Then Memphis Grizzlies player Haddadi ruled over fellow NBA player Yi Jianlian, then with the Milwaukee Bucks.

That title romp brought Iran to its first FIBA World Championships stint, seeing the Asian giant place 19th out of 24 teams in the premiere, quadrennial FIBA event held in Turkey.

Iran then surprisingly lost to Jordan in the quarterfinals of the 2011 FIBA Asia Championships in Wuhan, with the deposed champions settling for fifth. China regained its FIBA Asia title but not after a tight one-point win over Jordan in the final.

Iran won its first Asian Games cage medal in 2006, with Haddadi and Bahrami already there. (The Philippines did not play in Doha given the suspension FIBA gave the country given factionalism in the national basketball federation.)

At the 2010 Games, Iran was without Haddadi and yet it still managed to win a bronze medal.

The Philippines won the first four basketball gold medals in the quadrennial games: in 1951, 1954, 1958 and 1962. Israel, then under the Asian continent, ruled the 1966 and 1970 basketball tournament.

Korea, led by the legendary Shin Dong-Pa, won its first Asiad cage gold in 1970. China then won its first Asian Games gold in 1978, as Korea regained its title in 1982.

China then ruled the Asian Games from 1986 (then held in Seoul) to 2010, except for the 2002 Asiad in Busan when host Korea upset the Chinese in overtime.

For the 2014 Incheon Asiad, 16 teams are slated to compete. The lowest eight teams will first compete in a preliminary round for four slots in the second round.

China and Chinese-Taipei are bracketed in Group C, while host Korea and Jordan are in Group D. Iran and the Philippines are in Group E, while Japan and Qatar are in Group F.

Groups C to F await one team each, said to be coming from the preliminary rounds. However, an image of the draw for the men’s basketball competition tweeted by the Asian Games organizing committee did not clearly explain from what groups in the preliminary round –groups A and B– will the third teams from groups C to F come from.

Mongolia, Hong Kong, Kuwait and Maldives are in Group A while Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, India and Palestine are in Group B.

Men’s basketball at the Asian Games, slated from Sept. 20 to Oct. 3, will be held at the Samsan World Gymnasium, found at the Hwaesong Sports Complex. Even as Korea placed third at the 2013 FIBA Asia Championships, homecourt advantage is the Koreans’ sixth man in Incheon.

At the 2010 Asiad in Guangzhou, a Philippine squad coached by Serbian Rajko Toroman, Iran’s coach during the 2007 FIBA-Asia Championships title run, settled for sixth.



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