Jul 5, 3 weeks ago

Udumalagala’s Texan Style Allows Sri Lanka to Rule South Asian Court

http://sportsinfo.lk/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Team-Captain-Roshan-Fernando-682x1024.jpghttp://sportsinfo.lk/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Team-Captain-Roshan-Fernando-682x1024.jpgUdumalagala’s Texan Style Allows Sri Lanka to Rule South Asian Court

COLOMBO, July 5, 2018: Praneeth Udumalagala drew heavily on his recent experience of playing at the highest level in US collegiate basketball to lead Sri Lanka to its first ever regional championship triumph – winning the SABA Pre-Qualifiers for the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup in Dhaka, Bangladesh last week.

Best player Praneeth Udumalagala chatting with Mr. Chandana Liyanage, Vice President of Basketball Federation
Best player Praneeth Udumalagala chatting with Mr. Chandana Liyanage, Vice President of Basketball Federation

The rangy forward, who honed his shooting skills in the highly-competitive American College basketball scene playing for Texas Wesleyan University in Dallas, was the pick of the Sri Lankan squad which finished the five-team South Asian pre-qualifiers unbeaten.

Sri Lankan winning Basketball team with the officials at the airport

Sri Lanka defeated hosts Bangladesh 65-34 in the opening match, beat Nepal 70-57, hammered the Maldives 82-57, and then went on to keep a clean slate by holding their nerve to overcome Bhutan 71-60 in the round robin competition. Hosts Bangladesh, who finished runners-up, joined Sri Lanka in the second round of the pre-qualifiers for the FIBA Asia Cup.

“It certainly was a memorable tournament for all of us. We created a bit of history by winning the gold medal for the first time and I’m pleased that I could play a major role. What is exciting is that this is a young team which bodes well for the future,” said Udumalagala who aggregated the most points in three of the four matches.

Sri Lanka and Bangladesh now join Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia (all from South East Asia), Bahrain, Saudi Arabia (from the Gulf), Guam, Fiji (Oceania), Palestine (West Asia) and Macau (East Asia) in the second round of qualifiers which will take place in September. Awaiting the successful qualifiers in the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup will be the big boys of Asia, defending champions Australia, the Philippines, Iran, Japan etc.

Sri Lanka are not looking too far ahead though with their immediate goal being the South Asian Games in Kathmandu next March.

“Our main target is the South Asian Games and we will take confidence from this performance,” said Sri Lanka captain Rohan Fernando. “We will use the experience we gained from this tournament as well as the next round of qualifiers to build up for Kathmandu.”

India, Afghanistan and Pakistan will be the medal favourites at the South Asian Games, but buoyed by their performance in Dhaka and boosted by youthful exuberance – typified by Udumalagala – the team which is coached by Susil Udukumbura is confident.

“Playing in the US definitely helped me improve as a player and I hope I can pass on this knowledge to others in Sri Lanka,” said Udumalagala who returned home with an honous degree in Business management. While retaining his national spot will be the main focus, Udumalagala also hopes to train small groups of players improve their skills.

“The platform to individually work on your personal game is something that is missing in Sri Lanka. Off season in the States we used to work with a trainer honing our individual skills and overall game. I hope to open a basketball training centre in Colombo that will train athletes throughout the day. I want to share my experience I gained from my time in Texas,” added the former St. Joseph’s student.

Sri Lanka squad in Dhaka: Rohan Fernando (captain), Praneeth Udumalagala, Roshan Randima, Clinton Stallone, Charith Perera, Arnold Brent, Isuru Prabath, Thimothy Nithushan, Kisal Cooray, Gayan De Croos, Senarath Chanaka, Suntharalingam Vaheesan. Coach: Susil Udukumbura. Asst. Coach: Ranura Deepthi. Manager: Hashendra Fernando.

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