MANILA, Philippines—Nothing personifies the word “colossal” much like Group D in the 2023 Fiba World Cup in Manila.
The Mall of Asia Arena will be home to several showdowns of tough centers with Lithuania, Montenegro, Egypt and Mexico.
With only two teams able to qualify for the next round of the much-anticipated tourney, it’s time to see who will star for the four teams competing in a physical pool.
Even without their star big man from the Sacramento Kings, Domantas Sabonis, the Lithuanians are still very much a force to be reckoned with.
Backed by New Orleans’ anchor Jonas Valanciunas, Lithuania will also have versatile bigs in the form of Ignas Brazdeikis and Donatas Motiejunas.
Valanciunas posted norms of a double-double for the Pelicans in the NBA last season with 14.1 points and 10.2 rebounds per game.
After ending up as the ninth best team in the 2019 World Cup, the Eurobasket juggernauts are still one of the favorites to win despite having “lesser talents.”
“We will have less talent, but we can reach our objectives with discipline and desire,” coach Kazys Maksvytis said.
Height will indeed be might for the Lithuanians, but make no mistakes about it, the same can be said with other contenders in the same pool.
For a basketball club, being tall is one thing. Being dominant is another. That’s exactly what they’re getting with Chicago star Nikola Vucevic.
Staying true to his team’s moniker, Vucevic will be the Montegrins’ bull with opposing countries hoping to be the matador.
Vucevic’s scoring prowess was evident in his last season for the Chicago Bulls after he averaged 17.6 points on an efficient 52 percent shooting clip.
Complemented by Bojan Dubljevic, Nemanja Radovic and Marko Simonovic, the two-time NBA All-Star will have ample resources to work his way through the competition and into victory.
The Montegrins will also have the services of Vladimir Mihailovic, who may literally shoot the country to a deeper run than their 2019 campaign, where they only ended up at no. 25.
Assem Marei, the 2019 Turkish League MVP, will be the center of offense for the Egyptians as they hope to have a fruitful World Cup run. After all, they failed to qualify for the 2019 iteration of the global competition.
Marei was also an important piece for the Changwon LG Sakers last year in the Korean Basketball League.
It has been a long while since Egypt qualified for the world stage. For starters, the Egyptians only made it to the global tilt in 1994 and 2014.
Now, Egypt has a chance to make some noise with Marei at the forefront with Anas Mahmoud, Karim Elgizawy and coach Roy Rana.
In stories involving a number of giants, there has to be a certain David. Mexico is that team in this gigantic pool.
While Lithuania, Montenegro and Egypt have big men to rely on, the Mexicans are turning to lethal shooters in a small-ball setting.
However, despite being a small squad, the Mexicans have a spitfire guard in the form of Gabriel Giron.
Giron showed out in this year’s Americas Qualifiers with 14.8 markers per outing to go along with 3.4 boards a night.
The troika of Paul Stoll, Pako Cruz and Orlando Mendez has also helped Mexico to several tourney wins prior to the World Cup. The Mexicans turned in a commendable outing in the 2022 Fiba AmeriCup, finishing as the sixth best team in the prowl.
Showing preparedness for the world stage, the Mexicans outlasted Gilas Pilipinas in their final tuneup game on Monday, 84-78.
The Mexicans, small as they are, will face a huge test to begin their World Cup bid on Friday against Vucevic and Montenegro in Pasay.