Marquee Matchup: Yi Jianlian vs. Anton Ponomarev

Marquee Matchup: Yi Jianlian vs. Anton Ponomarev
Dec 04, 2006, 02:24 pm
By Ross, reporting live from Qatar

One of the more exciting basketball matches at the 15th Doha Asian Games in Qatar featured the two tall teams China and Kazakhstan. But more talked about was the match-up between China's Yi Jianlian, who finished with 14 points and Kazakhstan's young star Anton Ponomarev, who ended the night with 15 points. Four NBA scouts made their way over to the game, representing the Los Angeles Lakers, Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks and Portland Trailblazers.

Both teams got off to a great start and the race was close throughout the entire match. Although both Jianlian and Ponomarev found each other guarding different opponents, the two tower players grew physical once they matched up in the paint. Jianlian outshined Ponomarev in the first half, who struggled at times to grab his own rebound, getting out muscled in almost every shot. Jianlian seemed to be benefiting from plenty of great passes by team mate Wang Shipeng.

The second half started with more excitement as both Jianlian and Ponomarev showed more spunk by adding back-to-back dunks. As Jianlian grew tired and was subbed out, Ponomarev showed some serious flashes, slithering around the defense in the paint. Ponomarev, along with teammate Dmitriy Korovnikov (22 pts) brought the score to within 6 points. Not long after the focus shifted towards former NBA player Wang Zhizhi (22 pts) who pulled in 4 quick baskets, following a spectacular block pinning the ball against the glass as the shot clock ran down on Kazakhstan. The competition came to a close as China triumphed over Kazakhstan 89-77. Though China controlled the game for the most part, Kazakhstan looks to be a team of the future, and a team no one should overlook.


Yi Jianlian, 7'0", PF/C, 1987
14 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks, 2 steals, 3 turnovers, 7-12 FG, 4 fouls, 21 minutes


Yi basically reassured what’s been consistently said about him so far - though he has plenty of talent, he is not ready for the NBA. Great spin moves, high arching shots and a powerful first step are seen as gold for a big man. However, Yi found himself lacking in terms of finishing easy baskets underneath the rim. Yi also showed he needs more work on his defense, adding a quick 4 personal fouls before he was subbed out towards the end of the 3rd quarter. Other than the norms of a growing young player, his future looks bright.

Anton Ponomarev, 6’10, Power Forward, 1988, Kazakhstan
15 points, 5 rebounds, 5 turnovers, 3/11 FG, 9/11 FT, 36 minutes


Anton and the rest of Kazakhstan breezed through the first round, having no problems serving up the United Arab Emirates (23 points, 19 rebounds) and Kuwait. The question stood whether Anton was ready for China. Anton answered, but it took a while. Anton, like Jianlian, blossomed more into the second half. One could see very quickly that Anton's ability to run and dribble the ball is great for a big man. The frail 18 year old showed no remorse driving into a sea of Chinese players, getting knocked to the floor and getting to the free throw line 11 times. As the future of Kazakhstan fell on his back, the ball made its way into the hoop. Anton, shooting 9/11 free throws tonight, made some easy 3 point plays. Ponomarev, the #1 scorer in the Kazakhstani league despite just having turned 18 a month ago, is reportedly looking into heading to the United States to find his way into the NCAA. He’s an athletic perimeter oriented big man who can handle the ball well, shoot with range and seems to have plenty of talent--although he still has a ways to go in terms of his strength, defense and rebounding. He averaged 20 points and 9 rebounds in the William Jones Cup this past summer.

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