Players to watch in February window of Fiba World Cup Qualifiers

ALL eyes will be on Gilas Pilipinas as he kicks off his campaign in the Fiba World Cup 2023 Qualifiers this Thursday.

After skipping the first window last November, the Filipinos are back in the grind and, for the first time since 2019, will play in front of their home fans as they enjoy home-field advantage at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

It will be four interesting matches in five days for Gilas’ new national team, now coached by returning mentor Chot Reyes, as they try to protect our territory from their Group A peers.

But before the Philippines roll out the red carpet to New Zealand, Korea and India at the Big Dome, Spin.ph lists eight players fans should watch in this window.

Players to watch in Fiba World Cup Qualifiers

Jayson Castro (Philippines)

Who knew that at 35, Castro would still wear the national tricolor?

But The Blur has another chance to carry the flag on his back as he is one of those favored additions to the TNT Tropang Giga roster to bolster the Gilas 12, largely due to his experience and familiarity with the system of Kings.

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His last stint for Gilas came in Astana when he dropped 15 points and three rebounds to help Gilas qualify for the 2019 Fiba World Cup with a 93-75 triumph over Kazakhstan in February this year. He later begged to play in the World Hoops Conclave.

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Despite his advanced age, Castro remains a solid producer for TNT as he is currently scoring 13.3 points on 40% shooting, in addition to 4.0 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 1.3 steals in the Governors Cup. PBA in progress.

Everyone should remember, we’re talking about a guy who was the best point guard in Asia twice, and Castro might be justified in feeling a little Michael Corleone for this round. Just when I thought I was out, they took me back inside!

Dwight Ramos (Philippines)


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Ramos has been nothing but prodigious since his debut for Gilas Pilipinas in February 2020, but can you imagine him playing in front of packed Big Dome crowds?

Goalie Fil-Am will once again be counted on to deliver for the Philippines, and for sure the 6-foot-4 keeper will try to make up for lost time, especially after missing the team’s passage to the tournament. Belgrade Olympic qualification due to a groin injury.

He was excellent in the 2021 Fiba Asian Cup Qualifiers, getting 13.8 points on 46% shooting from deep, to go with 6.2 boards, 2.2 assists and 2.0 steals and maintained that pace in the Japan B.League where he currently has 9.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 23.1 minutes for the Toyama Grouses.

It’s been an exciting time to say the least, especially with St. Dwight playing for us.

Amen indeed.

Lee Gwan Hee (Korea)

Lee will look to redeem himself as he returns to Manila six years after his stint as an Asian import for Phoenix in the 2016 PBA Governors’ Cup.

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The 6-foot-2 shooter averaged just 8.9 points on 27 percent shooting from deep, along with 3.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists in 18.8 minutes back then.

Now 33, Lee is better than ever as his trade from the Seoul Samsung Thunders to the Changwon LG Sakers last season apparently took him to great heights as he now has 14.6 points on a clip of 34 % of Rainbow Country, to go with 3.1 boards, 2.7 pennies and 1.2 steals in 30.4 minutes this Korean Basketball League (KBL) season.

Lee was actually supposed to play in the Fiba Asian Cup 2021 qualifiers, being shortlisted in the Korean roster in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced the federation to change their plans.

Called up again, Lee will certainly make up for lost time despite all the odds the Koreans face in the build-up to this window.

Yeo Jun Seok (Korea)

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While naturalized player Ra Gun-A (Ricardo Ratliffe) is absent from these games after testing positive for COVID-19, 19-year-old Yeo is getting his baptism of fire by handling the paint for Korea.

The 6-foot-8 center from Yongsan High School showed glimpses of his game in the 2021 Fiba Asian Cup Qualifiers, tallying 12.3 points and 4.0 rebounds in 16.7 minutes in three games at Clark, including his best outing of 23 points, six boards, an assist and a steal in Korea’s 120-53 loss to Thailand.

Yeo hasn’t seen much action in the team’s run in the Kaunas OQT, but the experience he has had from this campaign should bode well as he will be tasked with carrying a greater load on this trip back to Manila.

Taane Samuel (New Zealand)

Forget the Taane Samuel you knew from La Salle. This guy is a different beast now.

The 6ft 8in striker has reinvented himself since returning to New Zealand and will prepare for his first call-up to the Tall Blacks senior team. He represented the country at the 2017 Under-19 World Cup in Cairo.

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Samuel established himself as one of the top gunners in the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZ NBL), collecting 16.5 points on 44% shooting from deep, to go with 3.8 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 30.0 minutes in the Wellington Saints Championship. run last season.

He has since capitalized on that play to land a contract with the Brisbane Bullets in the NBL in Australia this season.

So for those who still remember the injury-plagued performance he had for the Green Archers in the 81 UAAP season, erase those memories from your mind because 22-year-old Samuel should be in trouble. in Gilas once the two teams face off.

Dion Prewster (New Zealand)

Prewster imposed his will in the New Zealand NBL last year and the Tall Blacks are certainly looking to see that magic on the international stage.

Last season’s MVP winner posted 18.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.4 steals in 32.3 minutes while leading the Wellington Saints, along with Samuel and Fil-Kiwi shooter Ken Tuffin, towards the championship.

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The sly 6ft 4in guard also had his first call-up in the 2021 Fiba Asian Cup Qualifiers, shooting 11.0 points, 3.0 boards and 1.5 cents in 17 minutes over two games.

We don’t know about you, but Prewster taking on Castro should be a must-watch match in this window.

Prince Pal Singh (India)

India have high hopes of Princepal Singh and the 7ft2in giant will get his chance to prove himself in this window.

The 21-year-old center showed immense promise in his first games for the senior team despite posting 4.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 15.7 minutes in four games in Fiba Asian Cup 2021 qualifiers.

He had his best game where he had eight points, eight cards, three assists, two steals and a block in India’s 115-60 loss to Lebanon in November 2021.

One thing India will be banking on is for Singh to display the lessons he learned from his stints in the United States, first with the NBA G League Ignite team and then with the Sacramento Kings in the Las Vegas Summer League. .

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Muin Bek Hafeez (India)

Vishesh Bhriguvanshi will remain the heart and soul of India, but Hafeez has certainly positioned himself as the next to take over.

The 6ft 3in guard from Tamil Nadu has proven he can run the show for India in the past as evidenced by his averages of 10.5 points on 43% shooting from three, 4.9 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.8 steals in 29.4 minutes across eight games of the Fiba Asian Cup 2021 Qualifiers.

Hafeez’s excellence was on full display in India’s 94-75 win over Iraq in February 2020, where he tallied 24 points on 4-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc, to go with eight rebounds and eight assists.

If Gilas wants to stop India’s inside attack, keeping Hafeez at bay should be the top priority for Reyes and the rest of the coaching staff.

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