The reigning Asian champions, Iran, will face strong competition in the Asian Basketball Championships starting in Wuhan Thursday, with China eager to prove they are the continent's new giants.
With a coveted ticket to the 2012 London Olympics at stake the action promises to be fierce with teams from Jordan, the Philippines, South Korea, Japan and Lebanon all aiming to challenge the front runners.
Iran have appeared in only two Olympics, in 1948 and in 2008, when China qualified automatically as hosts.
Power in Asia is in the West, actually in Iran, considering that Iran's towering giant Hamed Haddadi is acknowledged as the continent's most dominant center, specially after the July retirement of the Chinese former NBA superstar, Yao.
In the 2009 championships, a snarling Haddadi dominated the Chinese in the gold medal game played in Tianjin, blasting the hosts with 19 points and 17 rebounds in a 70-52 victory.
Now fresh from his third season with the NBA Memphis Grizzlies, Haddadi is set to anchor a veteran Iranian team led by speedy point guard Mahdi Kamrani, US collegiate forward Arsalan Kazemi and sharp shooter Hamed Afagh.
"Hamed Haddadi is in great shape," Iran's Serbian coach Veselin Matic said.
"Compared to before (2009), he is much stronger and of course he is much more effective. I am happy to have this player. He can make all rivals surrender with his great abilities."
To counter Iran's size, China's American coach Bob Donewald will use two youthful seven-footers (2.12 meter) in Zhang Zhaoxu and Su Wei, while Washington Wizard power forward Yi Jianlian and former Dallas Maverick Wang Zhizhi will be tasked with scoring for the team.
"Our size will be our strength and we will attack the paint," Donewald told journalists in remarks translated into Chinese.
"Wang Zhizhi is effective in stretching the defense with his outside shooting and will be a headache for the defenses we face."
Besides lacking the former Houston Rocket Yao, China will also be without play-making small forward Wang Shipeng, who is injured.
"The Asian championships are not going to be easy," Wang Zhizhi told the Sports Weekly newspaper. "Some of the western Asian teams are really bringing in a lot of players, they are getting stronger and stronger."
Several teams, including Lebanon, Jordan, the Philippines and South Korea, have bolstered their rosters by giving foreign players -- mostly American -- passports, which allow them to play for their adopted countries.
The Philippines are likely to benefit the most from new additions, bringing in former Los Angeles Laker draft pick Marcus Douthit at center and former US collegiate standout Kelly Williams at forward.
Both Douthit and Kelly are Filipino-Americans.
The 16-team tournament is divided into three rounds, with the final round quarter-final knock out stage beginning on September 23.
Group A: India, South Korea, Lebanon, Malaysia
Group B: Iran, Chinese Taipei, Qatar, Uzbekistan
Group C: Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, Syria
Group D: Bahrain, China, Philippines, United Arab Emirates