AS if hurdling South Korea on Friday night wasn’t tough enough, an even bigger challenge awaits Iran in the 27th Fiba-Asia Men’s Championship the day after.
The Iranians face defending champion China in a game coach Mehmed Becirovic called as the `toughest’ his team will encounter in the tournament serving as the qualifier for next year's world championships in Spain.
Becirovic explained China’s three big men will no doubt be the biggest problem for the Iranians as they try to close out the first round of the preliminaries with a three-game sweep of Group C.
“I’m excited, but I also know this (playing against China) will be one of the toughest games we’ll have,” said the 52-year-old Slovenian coach after the Iranians’ 76-65 win over Korea at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Becirovic added beating China will take more than just Hamed Haddadi’s inside scoring, as he also cited the importance of getting outside gunners Nikkhah Bahrami Samad and Jamshidija Farabadi Mohamed to connect on their shots as well.
“Yes, tomorrow (Saturday), we need to get something from the outside also not just inside with Hamed so we’ll prepare all night,” he said.
The soft-spoken Becirovic also said he’d like Hadadi to sustain his aggressiveness inside instead of being contented shooting from the outside.
“Hamed’s an excellent guy. Everybody says he doesn’t want to practice but it’s not true. He’s motivated to play at the Asian championship. My only problem is he needs to stay close to the basket,” said the Iran coach, who steered the West Asia basketball champion to the Jones Cup title just last month.
“I don’t want him (Haddadi) to shoot from the outside. Sometimes, he’s making some damage but I want him to stay inside,” he added.
Iran ruled the 2007 and 2009 editions of the Fiba-Asia, but failed to make the medal round in 2011 in Wuhan, China when Jordan pulled a stunning upset against the Iranians in the quarterfinals.
Hadadi had a monster game against the Koreans, pouring in 22 of his 30 points in the second half to lead Iran to a 2-0 start in the group stage play.