BEIRUT (FIBA Asia Cup 2017) - The first edition of the new-look FIBA Asia Cup is done and dusted with Australia having been crowned champions at their first attempt.
He spoke to FIBA.basketball, sharing his thoughts on the tournament and the state of the game in Asia.
New Zealand and Australia played in the FIBA Asia Cup for the first time. Overall, what did you make of the historical event?
The participation of Australia and New Zealand is the most positive aspect. Also, Iraq and Syria are back after years of not being on the court, which I think is equally very positive. Of course there is a lot of catching up for them to do to reach the next level so that they can seriously compete in an event like this or to qualify for the FIBA Basketball World Cup. For the rest, I'm happy to be in Lebanon and seeing a basketball country organise such an important event.
"I think the fact that Asian teams have to measure themselves regularly against Australia and New Zealand should help them understand there isn't only competition in Asia but also beyond." Baumann
The fact that Australia won this tournament with a team consisting of players from their National Basketball League (NBL) underlines how they are a force in world basketball.
They have shown their abilities. For some it's surprising but for the experts, perhaps less so. In Rio, they had qualities that they were finally showing off at the world level and they were frustrated with the results (the men just missed out on a first-ever Olympic medal). But they have a young generation of players, a next level of players that also has a capacity to improve. They are a force to be reckoned with for the next 10 to 20 years.
How much are the Oceania teams going to help Asia?
I think we have seen that the Asia teams are still lagging behind our friends in Oceania and that is what we expected. It's not really a surprise and I think the fact that they have to measure themselves regularly against those two countries should help them understand there isn't only competition in Asia but also beyond. If they create the right structure, the stable environment with the help of their national federations, then they have the ability and elements required to go beat New Zealand and Australia. It's going to take some time but everyone has this capacity.
Both Syria and Iraq won games and that's a good sign that the region has other teams getting better.
These two countries have never lost their passion for basketball. They both have a very long tradition in our sport which they weren't able to showcase because of local conditions. The fact that they are here today is a sign that they are playing the game despite the environment and they want to be a part of world basketball. We are very happy about that and hopefully they will become better and better as the situation improve in their respective territories.
Lebanon organized a major FIBA competition for the first time. What do you see as the positives for the national federation to take away from hosting this event?
The Nouhad Nawfal Sports Complex, the venue that was refurbished and hosted the FIBA Asia Cup, is where Lebanon will play its Asia Qualifiers for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019. So this event presented the opportunity to refurbish it. At the same time there is a group of young people that now will know how to organize an event, how to host another team and how to create another very exciting atmosphere for that particular game - which is what we witnessed each and every time Lebanon played here. So there is a huge excitement.
The great crowds that turned up for Lebanon's games serves as further proof of the power of the national team in every country and it gives us great confidence for the start of the home-and-away games of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Qualifiers starting in November.
"The World Cup in 2019 and the Olympics in 2020 are opportunities not to miss for Asian basketball to get to the next level, both in basketball and 3x3." Baumann
China showed they have a clear plan not just in terms of building up to the World Cup in a couple of years but also beyond that.
China's major goal has been to be the champions in Asia and this has, somehow, hampered their ability to reach beyond that and also be strong at the world level. Now with Yao Ming as President of the Chinese Basketball Association, there seems to be an understanding that they need to look beyond the immediate events and instead create a plan for the coming years. Their ambition is to be successful in 2019 when the country will host our flagship event but they are probably aware this is not going to be that simple. So their aim should be to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and then keep riding the wave in order to be strong contenders for the World Cup in 2023 and also the Olympics in 2024.
Asia is getting a strong dose of international basketball nowadays. With this FIBA Asia Cup concluded, there's a great sense of anticipation and expectations in looking ahead to the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 in China and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
We hosted the World Cup in Japan (in 2006) and thought that would be helpful in pushing the development of the game. We probably were not as successful as we had hoped. We then had the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and a wave of events here. And now we have another two major competitions coming up. It's an opportunity not to miss for Asian basketball to get to the next level, both in basketball and 3x3 and certainly the latter is a discipline that can be very helpful to Asian countries in propelling them to international stardom if they handle it well.