NAPOLI – Basketball at Napoli 2019 will be one of the marquee events, running almost the entire length of the Summer Universiade from 3-11 July. In the magnificent PalaBarbuto and Paladelmauro halls, 16 teams each in the men’s and women’s competitions will vie for top honours.
The women’s field is led by Australia, Japan and Chinese Taipei – the medalists at the last Summer Universiade in Taipei in 2017. The American women’s basketball team did not feature on the podium then, but are surely looking to medal in Italy. Mississippi State University will represent the United States, marking their first time ever to represent USA in a Universiade. Their male counterparts are even more confident, looking to claim a gold medal after winning silver in 2017. Lithuania, who had beaten the Americans 85 to 74 in the last final, would be considered strong favourites again. Clemson University will compete as the U.S. national team, after Purdue University represented the Americans in Taipei.
Also in the men’s fray are the Chinese team who may not be considered top favourites but are hoping to give the favourites a run for their money. Jian Zhang, the coach of Peking University’s basketball team, that recently won the 21stChinese University Basketball Association (CUBA) finals without losing a game, will be leading the Chinese team in Napoli. In the squad is Peking University’s MVP Shaojie Wang (left), currently one of the best university basketball players in China.
“This will not be my first visit to Italy, but it will be the first time in Napoli,” he says. “I think it will be an interesting experience. We will try our best in every game in Napoli. We all know this is a hard-earned chance for us university players, and we want to do our best.”
Wang’s teammate Shengwei Wan (right), who plays for the Guangdong Tigers basketball team in the Chinese Basketball Association, is looking forward to showing off some Chinese flair to the world, in Napoli.
“I appreciate the opportunity that the Universiade and FISU provide us with, to show the Chinese style of basketball to the world,” he tells us. His team recently won the ninth CBA Championship in May 2019 and he heads to Napoli on a high. But Wan is aware of the level of competition that awaits them.
“I had a chance to be at the Gwangju 2015 Summer Universiade,” he says. “Facing Team USA and Team Germany, I felt that the Universiade gave us the highest level basketball competition. From the opponents’ tacit communications, great skills and stronger bodies, I learned so much from the Universiade.”
“At Napoli 2019, we are in the Group C with Finland, USA and Ukraine. I feel so excited because I will learn more from the top basketball teams again.”