With convincing wins over South Asian rivals last month, India were able to qualify once again for the FIBA Asia Cup, the most prestigious of Asian basketball tournaments, set to be held in Lebanon in August. In Lebanon, India will face much stiffer competition than the teams we defeated in the SABA Championship, and to be prepared to take on the best in the continent, India desperately needed some match practice at the highest level.
The BRICS Games 2017, held in Guangzhou, China over the past week, turned out to be the best "mini" exposure that Indian basketball could have asked for, even though the results and news did not go entirely India's way. India took part in the four-team basketball tournament between June 18-20, where they sent out almost a full-strength lineup led by stars by Vishesh Bhriguvanshi and Amjyot Singh. Against much tougher competition, however, India lost all three of their round-robin games to finish at the bottom of the group. Meanwhile Russia - the 9th ranked team in the world - finished with a perfect 3-0 record to win the championship.
India's first matchup was against China, the top-ranked team in Asia and the hosts of the tournament. Despite a promising start and an impressive 26-point outing by star Amjyot Singh, India couldn't keep up with the Chinese in the second half and succumbed to a 97-57 defeat. To add insult to injury, India's star guard Vishesh Bhriguvanshi suffered an ACL injury, keeping him out for the rest of the tournament and likely ruling him out of the FIBA Asia Cup, too.
India were also missing their excellent big man Amritpal Singh, who has recently been called up for a tour in China with the Australian NBL squad Sydney Kings. Without Amritpal and Vishesh, India did not stand much of a chance against eventual winners Russia in their second game, which they lost 88-58.
India, however, will be disappointed about their closing matchup against South Africa, who are a talented squad but ranked much lower than India in the FIBA rankings. Despite a better effort, India couldn't keep up with South Africa's offensive pace and fell to their third straight defeat, 88-75.
Final Rankings - 2017 BRICS Games Men's Basketball
- 1. Russia
- 2. China
- 3. South Africa
- 4. India