Al Ahli began their run at the revived Asia Champions Cup basketball competition on Saturday in dominant fashion, beating overwhelmed Barsy Atyrau of Kazakhstan 105-68 in Chenzhou, China.
The Dubai hoops power, winners of the Gulf Clubs Championship earlier this year, received a 50-point effort from the recently-signed American Sam Young. The veteran of 249 appearances in the NBA with the Memphis Grizzlies, Philadelphia 76ers and Indiana Pacers also grabbed eight rebounds in an 18-of-26 shooting performance, including 6-of-8 from three.
He was joined among top scorers by longtime Ahli big man Cheikh Samb, who scored 17 points on a 7-of-14 shooting performance. Senegal’s Samb, 31, is in his fifth season in Dubai with the club, after a brief spell in the NBA from 2007-09. Samb also pulled down 11 rebounds and blocked four shots.
• For Al Ahli's squad, stats and more: Visit the Fiba Asia Champions Cup website
Qais Omar was the leading Emirati scorer for Ahli, draining 7-of-9 shots for 14 points, with four rebounds. Emirati point guard Saeed Al Ajmani led the team with 10 assists, and Mohammed Al Ajmani had seven assists and five rebounds for the team.
Young, the 36th pick in the 2009 draft, reportedly rejoined Ahli just ahead of the tournament. The big man was with the team last season as they reached the UAE League final (losing to Al Shabab 2-1) and won the cup. He had apparently gone to play in the Chinese second division in the summer following the UAE season.
It is not uncommon in Asian basketball for top imports to move around frequently, sometimes signing on for as short a period as a single tournament. Former NBA veteran Austin Daye, for example, played just the Gulf Championship back in May with Bahrain’s Manama Club.
On Saturday Khalifa Salem (eight points) and Moosa Khuwaidem (nine points) also figured prominently for Al Ahli.
The Kazakhstan side were led by guard Pavel Ilin, who scored 15 points but shot just 4-of-13 from the field. Their American, Trevin Parks, shot just 3-of-11 for eight points. The Atyrau captain Mikhail Yevstigneyev put in the most-rounded performance, shooting 4-of-8 for 12 points with 10 rebounds.
Ahli, in Group B, next face Chinese side Xinjiang Flying Tigers, who finished runners-up in the regular season in the Chinese Basketball Association last year. They were knocked out in the semi-finals of the CBA play-offs by eventual champions Sichuan Blue Whales. That match is at 4pm UAE time on Sunday.
Ahli are also grouped with Al Shorta (Iraq), and Malaysia Dragons.
Group A is comprised of Petrochimi (Iran), Al Riyadi (Lebanon), Al Rayyan (Qatar), Pauian (Chinese Taipei) and Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (India).
The Asia Champions Cup has not been held since 2013, when Iran’s Foolad Mahan Isfahan won the title. The competition has historically been dominated by West Asian sides, with teams from Lebanon, Iran, Jordan, Qatar, Syria and Saudi Arabia accounting for the last 14 titles, dating back to 1998. It was first held in 1981, then sporadically thereafter before it became an annual competition from 1995-2013.
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