The SMART Gilas national team is in for a rough outing in the Dubai Invitational basketball tournament.
Bereft of star players from the PBA, the PH five, scheduled to leave Tuesday, will be severely handicapped playing against teams allowed to field three imports in the tournament kicking off the country’s buildup for the 2013 Fiba Asia Men’s Championship in Beirut.
Three clubs from Lebanon and two from host United Arab Emirates have three reinforcements each with strong credentials in the nine-team tournament.
Considered as strong candidates for the crown are Lebanese teams Sagesse Beirut, Mouttahed Tripoli, and Al Riyadi Beirut, which boasts 7-foot-2 Loren Woods, a former NBA campaigner, and American-Lebanese 7-footer Joe Vogel.
Al Riyadi will also field American Rashan Anderson, a 6-5 University of Connecticut slasher who played for the Iowa Energy in the NBA Developmental League, and Egyptian Ismail Ahmad.
Mouttahed Tripoli has skipper Rony Fahed and American forwards Marc Salyers and Eric Chatfields while Sagesse Beirut parades former US collegiate hot shots Aaron Harper, Deshawn Sims and Chudney Gray.
“This could be the toughest tournament for us,” said Smart Gilas head coach Chot Reyes. “But as I’ve said, this is just a learning and preparatory tournament. This is a preparation for the bigger battle ahead.”
Naturalized center Marcus Douthit will join forces with the PBA’s JR Reyes, Ronjay Buenafe and KG Canaleta in the absence of the pro players who helped Smart Gilas win the Jones Cup in Taipei last year.
Completing the lineup are Garvo Lanete, Greg Slaughter, RR Garcia, Ronald Pascual, Kevin Alas, Jake Pascual and overseas-born Filipino dribblers Matt Rosser, Justin Melton and Isaac Holstein.
Bracketed in Group B with Al Ahli Dubai, Mouttahed Tripoli and Al Riyadi Aramex, Smart Gilas will open its bid against Mouttahed on Thursday at the 6,000-seater Rashed Ben Maktoum-Dubai Stadium.
“Everybody is considered team-to-beat. All teams will be parading at least two imports while we have only one,” said Reyes.
“But it’s okay. The important thing here is to learn and give our cadet pool members the exposure they need,” he added.
Al Riyadi Aramex of Jordan has imports San Sakkakini, Darwin Dorsey and Alpha Bangura, a former Meralco import who saw action for Libya in the 2012 London Olympics.
Ahli Dubai has signed up former New York Knick Cheikh Samb of Senegal and Americans Leroy Hurd and Leemire Goldwire, who had an impressive stint in the NBA D-League.