A NEW-LOOK Team Pilipinas takes the cudgels for the country in the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers, taking on Iran today at the start of the second round of the competition.
With majority of its previous roster serving their suspension following a brawl with the Australian team on the final play date of the first round of the tournament on July 2, the Philippine national team looks to regroup and propel its push some more in their collision with the host team at 8:30 p.m. (Manila time) at the Azady Gym in Tehran.
Coaching the Philippine Basketball Association-backed Team Pilipinas now is Yeng Guiao, who is taking over from suspended coach Chot Reyes.
The NLEX Road Warriors coach has assembled a pool of players culled from the PBA for this latest stretch of the qualifiers.
The players are NLEX’s Asi Taulava, Rain or Shine’s Beau Belga, Gabe Norwood and Raymond Almazan, Northport’s Stanley Pringle, Magnolia’s Ian Sangalang and Paul Lee, Phoenix’s Matthew Wright, Blackwater’s Poy Erram and Allein Maliksi, San Miguel’s Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter and Christian Standhardinger, and Barangay Ginebra’s Greg Slaughter, Japeth Aguilar, and Scottie Thompson.
Messrs. Norwood, Aguilar and Wright saw action in the previous round but the latter two are set to miss the Iran game because of the suspension meted by FIBA for their involvement in the brawl.
In the second round of the qualifiers, the Philippines is at third place in Group F with a 4-2 record behind Australia and Iran, which have identical 5-1 records and topped their respective groupings in group play.
Kazakhstan is fourth with a 3-3 card followed by Japan (2-4) and Qatar (2-4).
The top three teams at the end of the second round advance to the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup in China.
Going up against a tough team like Iran, which has former National Basketball Association campaigner Hamed Haddadi in its fold, with a short time to prepare, Mr. Guiao said their work is cut out for them against the Iranian team but nonetheless not offering any excuses not to compete hard.
“We are in a similar position like in the Asian Games,” said Mr. Guiao, following their final practice here at home before leaving for the Iran game early this week and referring to their experience at the recently held Asian Games in Jakarta where they only had less than two weeks to prepare.
“But the thing about the Asian Games was that we were early in Jakarta. We had four days to prepare there before our first game. Here we have basically one and half days to prepare before we play. But we are not going to use that as an excuse not to play hard and give our best,” added the coach, whose team finished fifth in the Asian Games.
Mr. Guiao went on to say that against Iran they hope to keep the game close to give themselves a chance to win the game.
“I just want to make it a close match, to make it tight in the end against the home team and home crowd. Hopefully we don’t allow ourselves to fall behind much because it will only make things tougher for us. We just have to give ourselves a chance to pull off the win,” he said.
The Philippines-Iran game will be shown live over ESPN5 and live stream via espn5.com, with coverage starting at 8 p.m.
REYES STEPS DOWN
Meanwhile, Mr. Reyes announced on Tuesday night that he was stepping down as national team coach.
Was set to serve a one-game suspension, on top of a monetary fine imposed by FIBA in connection with the July brawl, Mr. Reyes said with various circumstances falling into place, the time to “step aside” and contribute in a different capacity is now.
“We have long worked for full support from all of Philippine basketball’s major stakeholders — from Coach Rajko Toroman’s time to my stint in 2013 to 2014, then Coach Tab Baldwin, until my current tenure. Now that the PBA has opened its doors fully to the SBP (Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas) and the national team, it is time for me to step aside and contribute in a different capacity, focusing on the 2023 program,” Mr. Reyes, who is also president and CEO of TV5 Network and Media5, posted on his Twitter.
On the part of SBP, it acknowledged the contribution of Mr. Reyes to the country’s basketball program and thanked him for his service for flag and country.
“The SBP wishes to thank Chot Reyes for his dedication and service to the national team. We appreciate all the sacrifices you have given for the sake of flag and country. Thank you very much! Puso!!!” wrote SBP President Al Panlilio on his Twitter account. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo