It would be ridiculously easy and highly insensitive to paint Lebanon a non-entity since it is placed in Level II of the Asian women’s basketball championship.
With a young team, a committed coach and a diligent Federation eager to put Lebanon in the world map, there is every possibility that the West Asian country would be a force to reckon with — not in the immediate future but certainly in the long run.
“We are slowly and steadily building the team. We need these experiences to get better,” says Elie Nasr, Lebanon’s chief coach, after it defeated Uzbekistan in its opening match on Thursday; a contest that showed the team’s fighting spirit and defence prowess in equal measure. “Our ambition is to qualify for the World Cup, one day.”
Chantelle, the key
At the moment, Lebanon has nothing other than focussing all its energies on its next match against Malaysia. Comprising mostly players with no international experience — only Nisrin Dandan has played in the 2001 Asian championship — Lebanon depends on the shooting skills of Chantelle Denise Anderson.
The 28-year-old, an American by birth, has played Women’s National Basketball Association for five seasons and four years of inter-collegiate tournaments in U.S.A.
Now representing Lebanon, Chantelle is enjoying her stint with the team, which she feels is supporting and encouraging her.
“It’s the heart,” she says when asked what she likes about the Lebanon team. “I like the way the players seek each other out and encourage each other.”
To give Chantelle all the credit would be unfair. There are equally talented hoopsters such as Chada Nasr, Nayla Alameddine and Dandan. While Chantelle dazzled scoring 19 points against Uzbekistan, it was the solid show by Nasr whose lay-ups were a delight and Nayla’s dogged show in the defence that enabled Lebanon, playing its first FIBA Asia competition after eight years, to an 83-68 win.
Nasr understands the value of Chantelle.
“The presence of Chantelle is really refreshing. In Lebanon we don’t have many taller players. With her height (6’6”), she is invaluable,” says the 39-year-old.
Nasr’s knowledge of the players comes as an added advantage as seven players from this team are members of Antranik Club, of which he is the coach.
Nasr’s keeps mentioning about his desire to see the Lebanon women’s team grow into a formidable force and compete in the World Cup, for which he says he is sowing the seeds.
“If we invest in youth, within four to five years, our ambition will become a reality.”