Play in the much-anticipated 34th William Jones Cup International Basketball Tournament is scheduled to start at the Taipei Physical Education College Gymnasium in Tianmu on Saturday, with three-time defending champions Iran taking on Team Lebanon at 1pm.
The annual mid-summer basketball classic, which began in Taipei 33 years ago in an effort to improve the local level of play in the sport, features two local teams, the Taiwanese national team and Team Kuang-hua, which is made up mostly of college all-stars, as well as Iran, Japan, Jordan, Lebanon, the Philippines, South Korea and the US. The nine-day competition is to be played in a round-robin format.
Like last year, no medal rounds are scheduled for this year as the final standings are to be strictly based on the results of the preliminaries, with a set of tie-breaking rules in place in case teams finish with identical records.
Looking to improve on their second straight fourth-place finish last year are Team Taiwan, led by skipper Hsu Jin-tseh of Pure Youth Construction, whose Builders won the title in the Super Basketball League (SBL) for the first time last season.
Hsu is to have the most complete lineup that Taiwan have had to offer in many years, with premier center Tseng Wen-ding and top scorer Lin “the Beast” Chih-chieh at his disposal for the first time in three years to help lift the hosts back to a top-three finish.
“This is the first time in a while that we’ve had as complete a lineup as we have this year, so hopefully good things will happen for us,” Hsu said at a press conference in Taipei earlier this week.
He will also have Wu Dai-hao and Tien Lei to join a frontcourt that was at least two men short in the past two years, plugging up a hole in the middle of the Taiwanese defense that left them vulnerable to a bigger Iranian and Jordanian lineup who lived off their size advantage in recent years.
Standing in Hsu’s way for a top-three finish are the Iranians, who are the early favorites to win the event, with essentially the same lineup from a year ago playing in a familiar city, a South Korean squad made up of the champions from its professional league (KBL), Anyang KGC, as well as a strong US team that includes players who have played professionally in Asia in the past.
It is the first time since 2004 that Team USA have assembled a team of players of similar caliber, with the teams from the most recent years coming from various amateur squads, or clubs that were not as well organized.
Another vast improvement in this year’s event will be the teams’ accommodation, which is to be exclusively provided by the Palais de Chine, a five-star establishment that should keep the players well rested for what is expected to be an intensive nine days of competition.