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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

UAE fall short in basketball competition

Height difference shows in score line, while Al Ahli, the tournament hosts, are facing Kazakhstan team in quarter-finals tonight
Qais Omar Al Shabebi scored 11 points and six rebounds in the 54-35 loss to  Ittihad Alexandria club of Egypt.
Qais Omar Al Shabebi scored 11 points and six rebounds in the 54-35 loss to Ittihad Alexandria club of Egypt.

DUBAI // When asked how tall he is, Jasim Abdalla answers using feet and inches, as basketball players always do.

But when he says "6-6", meaning six feet and six inches (1.98m), he has a conspiratorial smile; he is not nearly that tall, and he knows we know it.

"I think everybody beats us in size," the forward for the UAE national team said. "It seems like every team we play has four guys 6-7 or 6-8 or more. We do the best we can."

The UAE's height issues came to the fore again last night as they lost 86-61 to the Ittihad Alexandria club of Egypt in the quarter-finals of the 23rd Dubai International Basketball Tournament at the Al Ahli club.

The Egyptians outrebounded the UAE 54-35 and made a living making lay-ups against their far shorter opponents, such as Abdalla, who ought to be defending a perimeter player but must play under the basket on the height-deficient UAE side.

"We have some tall guys coming up," said Abdalla, who was born in London and plays for the Sharjah club. "But they must learn how to play."

The Egyptian club had two 7-footers, and they scored 20 points, took 20 rebounds and gave the UAE few easy shots. Abdalla led the UAE with 20 points and 13 rebounds, but the UAE were not in the game after a 17-0 Ittihad surge in the second quarter gave them a 50-27 lead.

Mounir bin Sulaiman, the Tunisian who is the technical director for the UAE Basketball Association, said he was not troubled by the lopsided result. "We cannot think short-term," he said. "This game was good experience for Ahmed and the others. They will learn from this."

The UAE played without Rashid Al Zaabi, their most gifted player, who is out with personal issues. They got 11 points and six rebounds from Qais Omar Al Shabebi and eight points each from Khalil Salem and Mohammed Al Braiki.

The national team's next international assignment is the GCC Cup, in Bahrain, in September.

The Al Ahli club, reinforced for this tournament by three foreign players, including Cheikh Samb, a 7-footer from Senegal who has played in the NBA, have better prospects of advancing to the semi-finals when they play the Almaty club from Kazakhstan at 7pm tonight.

Samb reportedly is earning US$32,000 (Dh117,542) during this multinational tournament, and two Americans have been brought in on 15-day, $10,000 contracts, including Chester Mason, a former collegiate star.

The semi-finals are to be played tomorrow and the final is Saturday at 6pm.

poberjuerge@thenational.ae