For India, Window 2 of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers was disappointing, to say the least.
They dropped both games, getting routed in the first one on Nov. 27 to Lebanon 115-60 and a couple of days later, for the second time in four games, they lost to Bahrain in heartbreaking fashion.
In Window 1 of the qualifiers, back in February of this year, they lost to Bahrain off a game-winning corner three. In this game, they held an 18-point first-half lead but were outscored 29-8 in the third quarter before eventually losing 88-72.
Based on the results from Window 2, Bahrain and the unbeaten Lebanon team have sealed the two qualifying spots from Group D.
India can still qualify
Although the two direct qualifications spots in the group are decided, India still has a chance to extend its streak of Asia Cup appearances to 10.
Having not missed an Asia Cup since 1999, India must finish third in Group D, however, even that doesn't guarantee a spot.
To finish third, India must defeat Iraq in Window 3 but that will only put India alongside other nations that finished third in their respective groups. The six third-placed teams will then compete in a tournament, of which only four would qualify for the Asia Cup.
So, there are still plenty of hurdles but it's not all over for India.
Amjyot Singh is back!
Considerable time has passed by since Amjyot Singh Gill was last on India's national team roster.
First, he served out a one-year ban from June 2018 on the grounds of "indiscipline and misconduct". Following that, he was unable to make the Indian roster, especially for the 2019 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers, either due to reported clerical errors or his NBA G League commitments.
Then, in Dec. 2019, it was reported that the Basketball Federation of India intended to ban him for three years following a reported training camp brawl in Bengaluru in November.
MORE: Amjyot Singh - A career interrupted
With Singh on the roster for Window 2, that ban doesn't seem to have been implemented.
🎉 welcome 🔙 @gill_amjyot ;) @BFI_basketball 🇮🇳 pic.twitter.com/O4eG9qay5d- 🏀FIBA Asia Cup (@FIBAAsiaCup) November 27, 2020
He was, by far, the best player on the team in Window 2. Across both games, he averaged 20.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, and 2.0 assists in 37.7 minutes.
Princepal's promising play
With no Amritpal Singh, 19-year-old Princepal Singh received valuable minutes as the team's starting center. In comparison to the court time he received in Window 1, these extra minutes were a big boost for the NBA Academy India alum.
The table below illustrates how the additional minutes have impacted his key numbers
|Window 1 (2 games)||8.0||1.5||3.5|
|Window 2 (2 games)||23.5||7.0||7.0|
Apart from the numbers, these qualifiers would have also been an invaluable experience for Singh, currently a member of the NBA G League Ignite - the development league's lone team that is headlined by young prospects from around the world.
MORE: Singh on G League - 'This is a very big deal for me'
Exposure in international tournaments like these, in addition to the training and development he undergoes as part of the Ignite, could take his professional and national career a long way.
Prashant's national debut
Prashant Singh Rawat was one of three players, on India's roster for Window 2, who were alumni of the NBA Academy India.
While Princepal played starting center and Seijin Matthew received inconsistent playing time, Rawat was one of the few youngsters that played double-digit minutes in both games.
Across both games, Rawat averaged seven points and four rebounds in 15.7 minutes. He was also part of the team's roster in Window 1 but received a coach's DNP in both games.
In a team that didn't have the right balance of experience and young blood, for a 20-year-old, Rawat showed plenty of composure while on the court. While India racked up 45 turnovers across both games, among players to have played double-digit minutes in both games, Rawat was one of only two players to have recorded a no-turnover game.
Despite the lack of experienced talent, in a winnable game against Bahrain, India showed what it's capable of.
The team started off on fire as starters carried the team to an 18-point first-half lead, one they couldn't maintain due to an eight-point third quarter.
Postgame, India's head coach Veselin Matic cited the COVID-induced seven-month gap in basketball activities as a huge reason for the drop in level of play during the second halves of both games.
All FIBA regional qualifiers game can be watched live on FIBA's official platform - livebasketball.tv.
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