By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
THE Philippine Basketball Association-powered national team competing at the 18th Asian Games in Indonesia gets its campaign going, taking on Kazakhstan in a preliminary game in Group D set for 11 a.m. (Manila time) at the Gelora Bung Karno Basketball Hall in Jakarta.
It will be the first of two matches in Group D for the Philippine team, which is backed by Smart Communications, Inc., where it hopes to emerge in the top two in the grouping to advance to the next round of the Games.
The Yeng Guiao-squad is also grouped with powerhouse China in Group D.
Making up the Philippine team is the core of the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters in the PBA and backstopped by players from other teams in the league.
The players are Maverick Ahanmisi, Chris Tiu, Gabe Norwood, James Yap, Beau Belga and Raymond Almazan of Rain or Shine, and Christian Standhardinger (San Miguel), Stanley Pringle (NorthPort), JP Erram (Blackwater), Paul Lee (Magnolia), and Asi Taulava (NLEX).
In a very last-minute development, Filipino-American National Basketball Association player Jordan Clarkson of the Cleveland Cavaliers was granted permission to play for the Philippines in the Asian Games by the NBA.
After initially thumbed down to play, the Association “reconsidered” its decision and granted the Philippines’ request for Mr. Clarkson to play for the country.
Mr. Clarkson, who takes the place of Don Trollano (TNT), is reportedly on his way to Indonesia to join the national team hopefully in time for today’s game.
The Philippine basketball team goes into the Asiad off hurried preparations after it was left with limited time to prepare on the late decision if the country was to send a team or not.
Originally shelved as the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas felt “the time and chance to participate in the 2018 Asian Games would not be optimal,” the federation reconsidered its decision, citing primarily the huge clamor from local basketball fans to have a team compete in the Games.
It made the announcement of the formation of the team on Aug. 5.
The interval in between decisions, however, left the national team with lesser time to assemble and prepare.
“We have limited time to prepare because of the delay that happened but that won’t stop us from giving our best. We have come up with this list of players because of familiarity. I have worked with the players of Rain or Shine while the others I have no problem working with them,” said Mr. Guiao of the mindset they have and the players who are part of the team.
Mr. Guiao, who is now coach of NLEX, used to handle Rain or Shine and led it two titles in the PBA.
With Mr. Clarkson joining the squad, the national team feels he can help its cause.
“That (Clarkson go-ahead) will be a big boost for us. He can definitely help us. I hope he is in shape. Well, I think even if he is not in shape he can still be a big help for us. He’s a big boost for basketball in the country being an NBA star wanting to play here. It says a lot about him as a person. I am looking forward to playing with him,” said Mr. Tiu in one of their practices before they left for Indonesia.
For today’s game, the Philippines is facing Kazakhstan, which finished fourth in the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.
Other groupings in the Asian Games have South Korea, Thailand, Mongolia and Indonesia in Group A; Iran, Syria and United Arab Emirates (Group B); and Qatar, Chinese Taipei, Japan and Hong Kong (Group C).
The Philippines-Kazakhstan match will be broadcast live over ESPN5.