PBA-backed national five leaves for Jones CupBy Musong R. Castillo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—A Philippine team made up of some of the PBA’s brightest stars departs for Taipei Friday to get a taste of the international brand of play in the 34th staging of the prestigious William Jones Cup.
Coach Chot Reyes said that winning the event is just secondary for the Nationals, who will be ranged against a tough foreign field in their buildup for a tougher grind ahead.
The Smart-Gilas program, which Reyes assumed after leaving Talk ‘N Text in the Philippine Basketball Association, is being readied for the World Championship qualifier slated next year.
“I told the players that I will try different combinations (on the floor) for us to get a feel of each other,” Reyes said. “We have one word as our battlecry: ‘Learning.’”
The last time the country sent an all-pro team to the event was in 2009 with a squad coached by Yeng Guiao.
That team also played two tournaments before going to Tianjin, China, for the Fiba-Asia Olympic qualifying where it fell short.
There are several holdovers from that team, including former PBA Rookie of the Year Gabe Norwood.
Two-time PBA Most Valuable Player James Yap of B-Meg and Arwind Santos of Petron Blaze would have been part of the PH five again but both, together with fellow San Miguel group players Marc Pingris and Alex Cabagnot, failed to sign their letters of commitment for the program.
This batch of pros is a whole lot stronger with naturalized center Marcus Douthit manning the slot.
Two Philippine squads, the Centennial Team in 1998 under Tim Cone and the Northern Cement-backed all-amateur squad under Ron Jacobs in 1985, had ruled the Jones Cup before and Reyes’ group will not only try to become the third but also improve on a third place finish last year.
Jordan is first on the list for the Nationals at 5 p.m. on Saturday before the Filipinos take on the B-Team of the host nation the day after at 7 p.m.