Jones Cup-winning Smart Gilas squad flies to TokyoBy Musong R. Castillo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Smart Gilas-Pilipinas leaves for Japan Wednesday to see action in the fourth Fiba Asia Cup (formerly Stankovic Cup), looking to land at least a top three finish to be able to head straight to the Fiba Asia World Championship qualifying next year.
Together for more than a month now and with a Jones Cup tucked under its belt, the team will be up for a tougher war in the capital city of Tokyo, with China bracketed with the Filipinos in Group A together with Lebanon.
After playing full throttle in Taipei and winning the Jones Cup against the United States, it is safe to say that the Philippines could be the most scouted side that will come to Japan.
But ex-Olympian Freddie Webb, speaking during the successful PBA Press Corps Awards Night on Monday, said that he expects the Filipinos to do well.
“These guys (Smart-Gilas II), we have to salute them. Nobody took a second look at that team,” Webb, a member of the 1972 PH Team to the Munich Games, said. “What made that team good is that they have courage.
“These guys went all out all because of love of country. You have to have a team that is hungry to perform and this team showed it. We became proud again,” he added referring to Gilas’ Taipei coup.
Coach Chot Reyes, just like he did before leaving for Taipei, is not fanning the hopes of this basketball-crazy nation.
“We haven’t had much progress the past week because of the two-a-day practices the players have with their mother PBA teams,” Reyes said. “We’re just hoping for the best in Japan.”
Like they did in the Jones Cup, especially against taller teams Iran and the US, Smart Gilas will have speed as its primary weapon, Reyes said.
LA Tenorio leads that speedy bunch with Gabe Norwood, Jeff Chan, Larry Fonacier and Gary David providing the bulk of the scoring together with Marcus Douthit.
“It’s going to be tough,” Douthit said also Monday. “But we have a great group of guys here who really play hard.”