MABA to play guessing game with juniors ahead of world meet

KUALA LUMPUR: The national junior cagers preparing for the seventh junior men's world championship here from July 10-20 will have to stay on their toes until the last minute. The Malaysia Basketball Association (MABA) will only announce the final team list on the eve of the tournament. 

National junior men's coach Sim Sin Heng said they would not announce the final squad early because they wanted all the trainees to fight hard for a place. 

“We want to keep them guessing. They will only know on the day of competition if they are in the final 12-man squad. If we name the team early, they tend to become complacent,” said Sin Heng. 

Malaysia, who are hosting the Under-19 competition for the first time, have been drawn in a tough Group D in the draw conducted by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) here on Friday. They have 1999 bronze medallists Croatia, Lithuania and South American qualifiers Venezuela for company. 

The national squad will be opening their campaign against Venezuela and Sin Heng has no illusions about the task that awaits him. 

He said the team's past results would count for nothing as this was a world meet. Malaysia were champions in the South-East Asian junior men's championship last year and finished tenth in the Asian junior basketball championships in Kuwait in December. 

“There will be no weak teams here. We have to be prepared to do our best. We do not want the players to embarrass the country. We will go all out to win at least one match. I believe the players will thrive on this challenge,” he added. 

MABA will be calling up players from the national Under-16 and Under-19 teams for trials to select the trainees after Chinese New Year. 

The 16 participating teams in the junior men's world championship are divided into four groups. The top two teams from each group after the preliminary round will progress to the quarter-finals stage. These are the teams who will be in contention for the title. 

The other eight teams will be fighting for classification. Matches from the quarter-finals stage onwards will be played at the Bukit Jalil Indoor Stadium. 

The preliminary matches will be played at the Penang International Sports Arena (PISA) and a yet-to-be-decided venue in Klang Valley. 

Spain were the champions in Portugal four years ago. They beat the United States in the final but failed to qualify for the seventh edition this time. 

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