Just 10 days to shape up for Smart Gilas fiveBy June Navarro |Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA—Smart Gilas coach Rajko Toroman is cramming to get the national team in peak form and have the PBA-loaned players adjust to his system in 10 days for the Fiba Asia Championship.
Talk ‘N Text’s Jimmy Alapag finally showed up in training Sunday after a week-long vacation in the United States while Toroman is hoping the 6-foot-7 Kelly Williams would arrive Monday to complete his roster bound for the Asian championship in Wuhan, China, on September 15-25.
“We have a very short time and we have to use these remaining days to put the guys in shape,” said Toroman after the team’s practice at the Ynares Center in Pasig City.
Aside from Alapag and Williams, skipper Chris Tiu, playmaker JVee Casio and naturalized center Marcus Douthit had missed practice for quite some time.
Casio, whom Powerade selected as the top overall pick in the PBA Rookie Draft, was forced to sit out for almost three weeks due to a swollen knee, Tiu recently recovered from an ankle sprain and the 6-foot-10 Douthit just arrived from the US.
Except for Williams, who is still in the US, Smart Gilas completed its lineup for the first time in weeks Sunday with Mark Barroca, Mac Baracael, Japeth Aguilar, Chris Lutz, Marcio Lassiter, Dylan Ababou, Jason Ballesteros and Asi Taulava reporting for training.
“There are basically two important things to do. First is to get the players in good shape and second, put the three guys (Alapag, Williams and Ranidel De Ocampo) into the system,” said Toroman. “With these guys, we’ll be a different team.”
The Nationals are bracketed in Group D along with China, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in the opening round of the Fiba Asia Championship, which offers one continental slot to the London Olympics next year.
“It’s definitely a stronger team. We’ll be able to complete the missing pieces of the puzzle,” said Smart Gilas team manager Frankie Lim.
“Our weakness at the four spot will be compensated by the addition of Kelly and Ranidel and we also got stronger at the point with Jimmy’s leadership and skill.”
Smart Gilas will play a series of tuneups against Jordan and Qatar on September 8-11 at 7 p.m. at the Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan, the team’s final preparations two days before leaving for Wuhan on September 13.
“Our focus is to try help the team in whatever capacity possible in preparation for China. I want to help but not at the risk of breaking the chemistry of these guys,” said Alapag, the reigning PBA MVP.
The Nationals will face Qatar on September 8 and will take a break with Jordan and Qatar meeting up the following day. Smart Gilas will take on Jordan and Qatar again on September 10 and 11.