Smart Gilas Pilipinas opens Jones Cup bid vs. Iran, instead of Jordan
TAIPEI—Jordan suddenly lost the swagger of a world championship qualifier after successive beatings from the Smart Gilas national team.
The Philippine five intends to keep it that way in their impending match up in the William Jones Cup at Hsinchuang Stadium in New Taipei City here.
But the clash will have to wait until August 8, though, as a sudden change in schedule had the Philippines facing powerhouse Iran as early as Saturday.
Iran is certainly a tougher test for the Filipinos as the back to back Asian champions will again be led by seven-foot-two Hamed Haddadi, who is a member of the Memphis Grizzlies in the NBA.
But Smart Gilas team captain Chris Tiu is confident of landing at least second place in the Jones Cup despite the presence of Iran along with South Korea and Japan—teams they haven’t beaten yet in any tournament the past three years.
A playoff round, semifinals and finals have also been added to the tournament, which was rescheduled due to the withdrawal of of South Africa.
The Philippines tackles Chinese Taipei on Sunday, but the supposed rest day on the following day was scraped as the team will play on each day of the annual meet which runs from August 6 to 14.
The Nationals instead face Jordan on Monday, with Malaysia, South Korea, United Arab Emirates and Japan lined up next.
Head coach Rajko Toroman has practically brought the same roster that stunned the Jordanians and finished in the semifinals of the Fiba Asia Champions Cup held in Manila some three months ago.
“We actually won our last three games against Jordan and to be honest, I expect to win again,” said Toroman.
Aside from their meeting in the Champions Cup, the Filipinos also claimed the scalp of the Jordanians in the elimination round of the Fiba Asia Stankovic Cup and the finals of the Manila Invitationals last year.
Fortified by PBA stars Asi Taulava and Dondon Hontiveros, the Nationals are training their sights on a medal finish in the nine-nation tournament calendered a month before the Fiba Asia Championship in Wuhan, China on Sept. 15 to 25, the qualifier for the 2012 London Olympics.
Co-skipper Mark Barroca, JV Casio, Mac Baracael, Dylan Ababou, Marcio Lassiter, Jason Ballesteros, Chris Lutz and naturalized center Marcus Douthit are back to help improve the Philippines’ fourth-place performance last year.
Also joining the Nationals are Smart Gilas operations head Butch Antonio and assistant coaches Jude Roque, D’Jalma Arnedo, Oliver Bunyi, Charles Tiu, Ryan Gregorio, travel planner and consultant Andrew Teh, therapist Albert Rolle and Fiba referee Raffy Britanico.
Jimmy Alapag, Kelly Williams and Ranidel De Ocampo of Talk ‘N Text were also tapped by the national squad but skipped the Jones Cup after the Tropang Texters qualified for the finals of the ongoing PBA Governors Cup.
“Every game is now important,” said Toroman. “We need to build up confidence and for the PBA players to get used to playing with the Smart Gilas guys.”