SEA Games 7: Players to watch out for in basketball
Despite tougher competition in the region, the Philippines remains the team-to-beat for the gold in the upcoming 2017 Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
And deservedly so, as the cadet-laden Gilas Pilipinas is bringing in a young but feisty squad aching to claim the country’s 18th pole finish in the meet.
However, it doesn’t mean that the other countries will just roll over and hand the country the gold as they themselves want to show that true to the critics’ observations, the rest of region has indeed closed in on the Philippines.
With the task laid out, INQUIRER listed seven players who we feel the fans should keep tabs on this August.
1. Kiefer Ravena – G, Philippines
Arguably one of the best amateur players in the Philippines right now, Ravena is gunning for a record-setting fourth gold medal in the biennial meet.
Though one of the youngest in the crew, the 23-year-old guard is one of the veterans in this level of competition in another go-round in the SEA Games.
As the vocal leader for this PH squad, Ravena is expected to play a key role in another attempt for Philippines to stay at the top.
2. Tyler Lamb – G/F, Thailand
The reigning ABL Heritage MVP takes his act to the SEA Games as he finally makes his debut for the Thai national team.
Averaging 18.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 2.8 steals this past ABL season with the Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions, Lamb has been a household name in the region thanks to his outstanding play that almost earned him a spot in GlobalPort as the team’s Asian reinforcement last season.
Expect more from the Thai-American in this tourney as he will fortify an already dangerous Thailand crew bannered by scorer Chitchai Ananti.
3. Tam Dinh – G, Vietnam
Vietnam is leaving no stones unturned as it parade possibly its strongest squad headed by Tam Dinh for the regional tilt.
The Vietnamese-American guard was the leading scorer in the inaugural Vietnamese Basketball Association season last year, where he averaged 19.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 1.8 steals for the Can Tho Catfish.
Dinh’s inclusion, together with the additions of Horace Nguyen and Stefan Nguyen, could only mean positives
for Vietnam as it aspires to contend in this upcoming SEA Games, this time under coach Todd Purves.
4. Sandy Kurniawan, G/F – Indonesia
Kurniawan didn’t shy away from the spotlight when Indonesia competed in the 2017 Seaba Championship, proving that he can hang with the best in the region.
The 31-year-old swingman showed that he’s a reliable three-and-D guy for his side, averaging 11.5 points on a 47-percent shooting from threes on top of 3.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.8 steals.
Spotlight may be on his heralded teammates like Mario Wuysang, Arki Wisnu, and Biboy Enguio, but don’t sleep on Kurniawan making his impact in Kuala Lumpur.
5. Leon Kwek – F, Singapore
One of the fastest rising stars for his country, the 20-year-old Kwek has proven that he’s a solid commodity for the Singaporean national team.
However, the 6-foot-2 forward couldn’t sustain his good showing from his time with the Singapore Slingers in the ABL as he only posted pedestrian numbers in the 2017 Seaba Championship with his 9.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.0 steals.
One thing going his way, though, has been his efficiency as his presence has been a stabilizing force for a largely disappointing outing.
Kwek would love to bounce back from that experience, and he has to, especially with the tough field awaiting for Singapore in the SEA Games.
6. Kuek Tian Yuan, F, Malaysia
Hosting the SEA Games also means bringing in the big guns for Malaysia.
And with the hosts hell-bent to upend the Philippines from its throne, the Malaysians welcome back majority of their star players from the Westports Malaysia Dragons in the ABL and Kuek Tian Yuan is one of those.
The 26-year-old, who has been the team’s top performer when they were welcomed as a guest squad in the PBA D-League last season, returns to national team duty ready to slug it out for national pride.
Tasked to hold the paint for Malaysia, Kuek will have his hands full against the bevy of guards aching to challenge his length.
And if he passes the test? It’s not far-flung that a podium finish is on the horizon for the hosts.
7. Christian Standhardinger – F/C, Philippines
Largely a mystery man a few months back, Standhardinger has undoubtedly shot up the ranks thanks to his solid play with the national team.
The Fil-German has provided the national team a viable option in the paint, as evidenced by his performances in the 2017 Jones Cup and the 2017 Fiba Asia Cup.
However, one thing going against Standhardinger will be his tiring schedule as he and Carl Bryan Cruz are set to fly to Malaysia for the SEA Games after the tournament in Beirut.
It’s a mystery how coach Jong Uichico will utilize the 28-year-old given this exhausting challenge, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise if Standhardinger imposes his will down low and help the Philippines shun the opposition.