FIBA Asia Cup 2022, The Dark Horse Arakji and the Lebanon Cedars

Aug 30, 2022

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LEBANON Cedars has been a hot topic as of late due to their recent radical plays and wins. The match between the Philippines was one of those aforementioned. And behind such plays of surprise comebacks and relentless wins, is a team of well curated and trained athletes that form the Lebanon Cedars.

First on the list is one of the names everyone has definitely been hearing when the topic is FIBA Asia Cup 2022, that’s right, Wael Arakji of the Cedars.

Arakji’s heroics were on full display at the last Asia Cup, where he nearly single-handedly led Lebanon to a victory over the Boomers. His clutch efforts have also been on exhibit throughout the Asian Qualifiers. 

But does Lebanon’s top guard really play better under pressure? Or are the game’s emotions—which are perfectly natural, by the way—biasing us?

Arakji is a superstar, as can be seen by glancing quickly at his total statistics. The point guard is 1.93M (6’4″) tall. Arakji is averaging the following per game in both the Asia Cup and Asian Qualifier:

Points per game – 20.6

Rebounds – 3.7

Assists – 3.3

Steals – 1.4

Minutes in – 31.3

These figures may seem average or ordinary, yet one must admit that these seemingly mediocre numbers are a monster to deal with at the perfect setting. Arakji just might be a perfect clutch artist.

The 27-year-old guard, who is the team’s starting point guard, handles the ball a lot in the final frame. This is advantageous for Lebanon since, as was already mentioned, Arakji is a very productive high-volume scorer who also does an excellent job of passing the ball. In the final quarters of the game, Arakji scores more goals and receives more assists, as shown in the table above. 

Arakji poses the most threat when he charges the hoop from the top of the key, particularly when switching to his reliable left side. From there, he has a wide range of movements at his disposal, including a wrap-around move, cunning spin maneuvers, and a reliable floater.

Arakji also does an excellent job at drawing fouls simply because of his speed and agility.

He becomes more aggressive in his quest to score alone, but his efficiency also increases. His field goal percentage is just astounding, despite a modest decline in his free-throw shooting. 

When games are still quite tight, Wael Arakji does step it up a notch in the fourth quarter. Arakji was considerably more effective than normal, contributing to more than half (56.1 percent) of the 173 points scored in the final period of the nine games that were examined. 

Wael Arakji therefore appears like a relatively safe pick if you’re looking for someone in Asia basketball to hand the ball to in order to win a game.

To date Lebanon Cedars has garnered quite a list of medals at FIBA events. The medals include, 2022 FIBA Asia Cup (2nd), 2017 WABA Men Championship (1st), 2007 FIBA Asia Championship for Men (2nd), 2005 FIBA Asia Championship for Men (2nd), 2001 Asian Championship for Men (2nd).

Apart from the epic clutch win against Gilas Pilipinas(Team Philippines), their recent consecutive match wins were very impressive. After beating Gilas, the won against New Zealand (86-72), India (104-63), China (72-69), Jordan (86-85), until their defeat against Australia that ended with 75-73 in favor of the Aussies.

Lebanon Cedars Roster

NamePositionJersey Number
Amir SaoudShooting Guard5
Elie ChamounShooting Guard6
Karim ZeinounShooting Guard7
Sergio El DarwichGuard9
Ali MansourPoint Guard10
Ali HaidarCenter11
Karim Raphael EzzedineForward14
Wael ArakjiPoint Guard20
Jonathan ArledgePower Forward21
Yousef KhayatPower Forward23
Hayk GyokchyanPower Forward24
Ali MehzerPoint Guard25

There are but a few more months before 2023 and the conclusion of FIBA, yet we can already see an emerging team with quite a good set of tricks up their sleeves. It may be just the beginning of the clutch series for the Lebanon Cedars and their clutch artist Wael Arakji.

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