With Dubai tilt 3 weeks away, PH side crams for chemistry
Charles Tiu believes he has all the pieces that Strong Group-Philippines needs to contend for the 32nd Dubai International Championship crown, and with a little less than three weeks left before tipoff, the challenge, it seems, is getting the team to mesh.
“That’s true. We need to find out who plays best with whom,” Tiu told the Inquirer on Wednesday, hours after star collegiate guard JD Cagulangan, Miguel Oczon and Jerom Lastimosa signed up to join a star-studded crew led by three National Basketball Association vets and the naturalized Ange Kouame. “We can only find that out once we see them [in practice].”
Tiu also admitted that conditioning could be a factor, since most of his players haven’t seen competitive action in a while, and that the collegiate stars will be coming off “20-plus days of vacation.”
“But they are splendid athletes, so we can address that,” Tiu said. “And I know that we have smart players who played under great coaches, so I think we will be ready.”
Lebron Lopez was also signed with the permission of the Gilas Pilipinas program.
The tournament gets off the ground on Jan. 27 and Strong Group will try to become the second team from the Philippines to win the event after Mighty Sports.
A tuneup game with the Philippine Basketball Association’s Converge squad has also been scheduled and Tiu, who is a member of Meralco’s coaching staff, is looking to play two more teams before they depart.
The Philippines is the only non-Middle Eastern country to ever win there, and with Shabazz Muhammad, Nick Young and Ronaldo Balkman, Tiu knows he has the materials to win.
Also on the team are Korean Basketball League-bound Justine Baltazar, St. Benilde forward Will Gozum, and former Ateneo aces BJ Andrade and Inand Fornillos.
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