The 2011 Jones Cup is one of the final tests for the SMART-Gilas Pilipinas national team as they gear up for the 2011 FIBA-Asia Championship in Wuhan, China in September, where a slot for the 2012 London Olympics is at stake. InterAKTV breaks down each opponent for the Philippine team in the Tapei tournament.
The United Arab Emirates team will have a very young look to it, with 11 of the team’s 16 members being under 23 years of age, similar to the SMART-Gilas Pilipinas program that began two years ago.
They will be led by 22-year-old guard Rashed Al-Zaabi, who shined for them in the 2009 FIBA-Asia Championships with averages of 13.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.6 steals. He looked to have improved quite a bit since then, with his impressive performance in this year’s FIBA-Asia Champions Cup held in Manila, where he put up 17.5 points per game, built around a sizzling 56.9 percent from the field and 50 percent from three-point range. Al-Zaabi also averaged 4.5 rebounds in the tournament.
Backing the prolific scorer up are two other 22-year-olds in Talal Al-Nuaimi and Jasim Abdallah.
Al-Nuaimi was the only other player who averaged double-digits in the Asian Championships two years ago, just behind Al-Zaabi with 10.8 points per game. Though standing a shade under 6-feet, Al-Nuaimi was able to average 4.1 rebounds, alongside 2.4 assists and 1.6 steals in the same tournament.
Jasim Abdalla also contributed to their cause that year, averaging 7.3 points per game that included 6 out of 14 three-pointers for a 42 percent clip, which is not bad for a 6-foot-7 center.
And like the Philippines with their PBA reinforcements, this team also has a pair of veterans to support the young talents.
31-year-olds Ali Alhattawi and Ibrahim Ahmad will attempt to add veteran leadership to the team, as well as on-court production.
Big man Alhattawi averaged 8.2 points and 4.5 rebounds in just 21 minutes per game for the UAE in the last FIBA-Asia championship, while the 6-foot-1 Ahmad had the third highest average for the team in the Champions Cup, where he averaged 8.3 points behind just import Courtney Fields and Al-Zaabi on the team.
The UAE national team finished just 12th out of 16 teams in the FIBA-Asia tilt two years ago, and dropped all four games in the Champions Cup.
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