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China eyes golden comeback in Asian Games back home

Zhang Zhenlin and the rest of the Chinese team are gearing up for the coming Asian Games. (Photo, FIBA)

After seeing its great walls crumbling, China has begun picking up the pieces from its disastrous 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup campaign and rebuilding for the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China from 23
September to 8 October.

In a press conference after the Dragons’ 75-96 loss to Gilas Pilipinas last Saturday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, head coach Sasha Djordjevic said the coaching staff will have to assess the state of the team
before getting back into preparation for the Asiad.

Djordjevic hopes the young members of the squad will soak in all the lessons for a good showing in the Asian Games which will have a home crowd backing them this time.

Incidentally, China may find that the Philippines is standing in the way of its Asiad ambition after Gilas vowed to recapture dominance in the region.

“No, we just have to get some rest and continue with this team, more or less. We will see how we are with the players and their injuries and how we will incorporate other players,” said Djordjevic, who also faced the Philippines in the 2019 FIBA World
Cup as the head coach for Serbia.

“There are a lot of new players who haven’t played at this level. It’s the first competition for them and I think they’re going to understand best what is it all about. How physically demanding it is, how to use your head in every moment of the competition
and never lose your head.”

“This is something we have to work on. But a lot of young Chinese players showed their faces for the first time and that is what I see, the future.”

Save for Zhou Rui, Zhou Jiwei, Wang Zhelin, Zhou Qi and Zhou Peng, the rest of the Chinese squad played its first World Cup for the national team and even added Minnesota Timberwolves guard Kyle Anderson to bolster its firepower.

But China fell flat in the group stages, losing to Serbia, 63-105, World Cup debutant South Sudan, 69-89, and Puerto Rico, 89-107.

The Chinese were able to pick up a win in the classification stages after an 83-76 win over Angola but it couldn’t end its campaign on a high note against Gilas.

Djordjevic lauded the efficiency of Gilas Pilipinas, especially Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson, who erupted for 34 points against the Chinese.

“Incorporating a player like Clarkson gave them a lot of inside courage. That’s what a player of his capability, talent, and quality can bring to the group,” Djordjevic said.

“That’s something you can transfer to the group through your way of playing, through your way of fighting. And he’s definitely the leader of this Philippine team.”

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