JOHOR BAHRU, Malaysia (21st FIBA Asia U18 Championship for Women): The advent of FIBA Asia teams in international youth competitions for women in recent times has been exciting and encouraging even if not exhilarating and epochal. Players from FIBA Asia women youth teams too have surely caught the eye with their individual brilliance in the recent past raising a sense of encouraging euphoria among the brass concerned.
At the 2010 FIBA U17 World Championship for Women in France, China won one of those rare medals for FIBA Asia team while clinching the bronze with Li Meng going on to be named the MVP of the competition. And more recently, Japan just fell short of emulating their fellow East Asian team when they came tantalizingly close to winning the bronze at the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship for Women in Amsterdam (The Netherlands). Evelyn Mawuli and Yunika Nakamura were two of the Japanese players who were the cynosure of attention and both duly made the All Stars.
Therefore, it might not be out of place to suggest that the 21st FIBA Asia U18 Championship for Women starting at the Stadium Bandaraya on Saturday will turn out to be a turnkey event for the future of FIBA Asia women’s basketball itself. Both Li Meng and Nakamura will be present doing their duty for their respective teams, and the battle between the two of these more promising youngsters will for sure be one of the main side draws of the competition.
Thailand and Malaysia have their task well cut out, aiming to break a 28-year-old stranglehold of the East Asian quartet –China, Japan, Chinese Taipei and Korea who finished in that order at the 20th FIBA Asia U18 Championship for Women at Surat Thani (Thailand) in 2010 – in the top four finish.
So do India and Kazakhstan have their challenges well noted as the two attempt to break out of the Qualifying Level II, aiming to join the Elite Level I for the next edition of the competition two years from now.
Two years from now might be a long time yet, but the next few days will surely set the Stadium Bandaraya alight!