Gilas Pilipinas Women will play in its first major competition since bagging the historic gold in the 30th Southeast Asian Games.
The national team will go to battle against the giants of the continent in the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup scheduled on September 27 to October 3 in Amman, Jordan. The Patrick Aquino coached-squad will be fighting to maintain its place in Division I, the highest level of women’s basketball in FIBA Asia.
In the 2019 edition of the FIBA Asia Cup, the Philippines finished seventh out of eight teams and avoided relegation to Division II.
Placing 51st in the FIBA rankings, the Philippines is bracketed in Group B in the preliminary round.
The goal is to advance to the playoff round. The top three teams of each group at the end of the round-robin preliminaries will move on to the playoffs.
Below is a preview of the teams that the Gilas Women’s team will be facing in Group B.
World Ranking: 3
Finished 3rd in the 2019 FIBA Asia Cup
Finished 8th in the Tokyo Olympics
The Australian squad that will compete in Jordan will feature a practically new line-up compared to the roster that saw action in the Olympics where the Opals finished in eighth place.
Three WNBA mainstays who were in Tokyo, Leilani Mitchell of the Washington Mystics, Steph Talbot of the Seattle Storm, and Allana Smith of the Phoenix Mercury, will not be playing in the FIBA Asia Cup.
Only 6-foot-2 forward Bec Allen of the New York Liberty is back for Australia. The 28-year-old long-time member of the national team will be one of the few experienced internationalists in an Australian team that has seven players aged 25 and below.
Two other veterans, two-time WNBA champion Sami Whitcomb and former Australian WNBL Defensive Player of the Year Lauren Nicholson, will also be providing the stabilizing presence for the Opals. Whitcomb was the top reserve of the Seattle Storm last season when they won the championship. She was recently traded to the New York Liberty.
To match up with the frontline of China, the Opals will have 6-foot-4 Zitina Aukoso — who will be making her national team return — and first-timer Lauren Scherf, a 6-foot-5 center who is a former WBNL Rookie of the Year.
Also making their debut for the Opals are guards Jazmin Shelley (5-foot-9), Kristy Wallace (5-foot-11), and Maddison Rocci (5-foot-6), swingman Alexandra Sharp (6-foot), and 6-foot-2 power forward Keely Froling. Wallace played for the Atlanta Dream in the WNBA after an impressive college career with the Baylor Lady Bears.
Rounding out the Australian squad are 6-foot-2 power forward Darcee Garbin and 5-foot-5 point guard Tiana Mangakahia.
Second placers in the 2018 FIBA Women’s World Cup, the Opals look to be a lock for one of the three teams in Group B which will clinch a playoff spot. The Australians have the height and the talent to go deep in the FIBA Asia Cup. The question is if they have enough materials to topple China and Olympic silver medalist Japan.
World Ranking: 7
Finished 2nd in the 2019 FIBA Asia Cup
Finished 5th in the Tokyo Olympics
With an average height of 6-foot-1, China will be an intimidating opponent in Jordan.
During the Tokyo Olympics, the Lady Dragons defeated Australia in the preliminaries, 76-74, with 5-foot-11 guard Siyu Wang scattering 21 points.
Ten players who contributed to China’s fifth-place finish in the Olympics are back in uniform. Conspicuously missing is its long-time star Shao Ting, the former WNBA small forward for the Minnesota Lynx.
China will be bannered by its twin towers, 6-foot-7 Atlanta Dream draftee Li Yueru and 6-foot-9 Han Xu of the New York Liberty. Li was a pillar of strength for China in the Olympics where she normed 14.8 points and 8.3 rebounds. Han averaged 9.5 points and 7.5 boards.
It is not all height that makes China menacing. They also have a platoon of quick guards who can shoot consistently from outside.
Six-footer Meng Li, the 2010 FIBA Under-17 World Cup MVP, was China’s second-leading scorer in the Olympics. She scored 10.8 points a game on a 36.8-percent clip from the three-point area. Backing her up at the two-guard spot is Siyu Wang — who contributed a team second-best 4.0 assists per outing in Tokyo.
Alternating at point guard are 5-foot-9 Liwei Yang and 5-foot-7 Yuan Li. Yang averaged over seven points a game in the Olympics. Yuan Li is a 21-year-old playmaker who has been part of China’s senior team since 2018.
Six-foot-three forwards Zhenqi Pan and Sijing Huang are key parts of the Chinese rotation who will be back for the squad. No longer in the line-up is 6-foot-6 center Mengran Sun. She has been replaced by 6-foot-4 Hengyu Yan. Rounding out the squad are 6-foot-0 Yifan Li, 6-foot-1 Ru Zhang, and 5-foot-9 Tongtong Wu.
The last time China emerged champion of the tournament was in 2011. They placed second in 2019. The last four editions have been won by Japan. China wants nothing more than to crown itself the best team in Asian women’s basketball.
Chinese-Taipei has been on the fringes of Asia’s elite in women’s basketball.
During the 2018 Asian Games, they topped their group in the preliminary round by finishing without a loss. Chinese-Taipei eventually ended up fourth, losing the battle for the bronze to Japan.
In the 2019 FIBA Women’s Asia Cup, the team finished sixth out of eight teams. It won just one of the five games it played. They did lose a close one to South Korea, 44-48, in the preliminaries.
Three of their top veterans from 2019 will no longer be donning the Chinese-Taipei colors. These are 6-foot-1 center Tsai Pei-Chen who led the team in rebounds with 5.6 a game, guard Chuan Huang Lin, and forward Huang Ping-Jen. The three averaged a combined 20 points per outing.
Coming back for the squad is their leading scorer from the 2019 Asia Cup, Wei-An Chen. The 5-foot-10 forward will be manning the slot alongside center Cheng I-Hsiu, also 5-foot-10. Both frontliners play for the powerhouse Cathay Life Tigers in the Women’s Super Basketball League (WSBL), the top-tier semi-professional league in Taiwan.
Cohesion will not be a concern for Chinese-Taipei as two other returnees, 5-foot-11 forward Ya En Han and 5-foot-10 guard Lin Yu-Ting, also play for the Cathay Life Tigers. Yu-Ting is a former WSBL Player of the Year. The other remnant from their 2019 national roster is 5-foot-4 guard Chu Yu-Chin.
Expected to make an immediate impact for the team is 5-foot-7 Peng Hsiao-Tong. Playing for Taiyuan, the 23-year-old was named the 2020 WSBL Guard of the Year. To fortify the frontline, Chinese-Taipei enlisted two centers, 5-foot-11 Lin Wen-Yu and 6-foot Lin Tieh. Wen-Yu led the WSBL in scoring with 16.8 points.
Chinese-Taipei will be aiming for a podium finish. Its lack of size, though, will make it difficult for them to match up with China and Australia.