Team Kazakhstan will take on Jordan in the opening game of the 29th William Jones Cup International Basketball Tournament at the Taipei County Hsinchuang Gymnasium this morning.
The mid-summer basketball classic, which started in Taipei 28 years ago, will have Team Taiwan hosting nine other national squads in the nine-day competition that will serve as an extension of the basketball fever that saw the crowning of Taiwan Beer as this year's Super Basketball League (SBL) champs.
In addition to Kazakhstan and Jordan, this year's tournament will include teams from the Philippines, South Korea, Japan, Qatar, Iran and Lebanon in a nine-game, round-robin format, where the squad with the best record will walk away with the coveted title.
Standing in Team Taiwan's way in its quest for the title this year are the three-time defending champs from the US, led by former head coach of St. John's University Mike Jarvis; a strong Qatar squad guided by new skipper Edward Allen Andrist; and a South Korean team that has a starting fivesome who play in the Korean Basketball League.
Also posing a threat to the Taiwanese is an all-star cast from the Philippines Basketball Association, the Philippines' premier professional basketball league, which finished sixth out of eight teams in a down year in last year's tournament.
Despite the intense level of competition and the pressure to match or better its second-place finish last year, Team Taiwan will feature a "Dream Team" SBL lineup consisting of Chen "Airman" Hsin-an, arguably the best player in the country; Lin "the Beast" Chih-jeh, the SBL's MVP this year; Tien Lei, a three-time SBL MVP; Tseng Wen-ding, SBL defensive player of the year; and captain Yang Tseh-yi, the explosive fast-break finisher.
"It is undoubtedly one of the most important international competitions that this country hosts every year, and we will give it our best and not disappoint the fans who have supported us all this time," Yang said.
He and the rest of Taiwan's best will have a chance to show their skills tonight when Taiwan opens the tournament with a tough match against Team Japan at 7:30pm.
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