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Charles Tiu confident of Strong Group’s fighting chance in Dubai tourney

Strong Group head coach Charles Tiu sees a championship contender in his current squad as it vies for the title in the 33rd Dubai International Championship.

Tiu, whose first stint with the Filipino squad last year ended with a quarterfinal heartbreak, is feeling so much confident this time around that he thinks the team is headed for the crown.

Strong Group head coach Charles Tiu (Inah Sabido)

With another short turnaround to the competition, the team scrambled to assemble a new group which came at a hefty price following the addition of former Los Angeles Lakers legend Dwight Howard.

The NBA champion joined three other imports in the rotation including naturalized Filipino player Andray Blatche along with McKenzie Moore and Andre Roberson.

The latest and final addition of local big man Justine Baltazar and Gilas sniper Jordan Heading, who will be arriving in the Philippines on Tuesday evening, came just over a week before the tip off.

Other young local standouts found their way to the team, with UAAP MVP Kevin Quiambao and his La Salle teammate Francis Escandor as well as their Taft neighbors Allen Liwag, Tony Ynot and Justin Sanchez of St. Benilde, and University of the Philippines guard JD Cagulangan in the roster.

With a mixture of talents, Tiu is liking the Howard-led team’s chances of eclipsing its previous record which he deemed is primed for the championship victory.

“I like the team so far. What we’ve been seeing, we have a great group of guys. Nobody complains. Even Dwight (Howard), he listens to everything we’ve asked. I feel we have a better team right now. We have better group of imports right now. More solid team. We just have to get a bit in shape,” said Tiu during the team’s open practice at the Urdaneta Village Covered Court in Makati City on Wednesday, Jan. 10.

“We have one player still missing, Jordan Heading will. Be coming over today so finally we’ll be complete but we’re just taking it slow, one day at a time, tryna make sure no gets hurt but I think we have a great group of guys. I’m so happy to have coach Brian (Goorjian) here to help me out,” he added.

Australian men’s national team head coach Goorjian as well as La Salle tactician Topex Robinson are set to help out Tiu at the touchline with arguably the team’s strongest lineup yet as they mesh the foreigners and the locals into one cohesive unit.

“Modestly, modesty aside, we definitely want to win the championship right now. I think we had such a great run last year, all of a sudden Ange Kouame got sick, missed the tournament and that change (things for us). So right now, our goal if we can stay healthy, we (might) have a chance to win championship.” Tiu said.

“(The chemistry’s) been okay. You know, we’ve had zero complete practices. You know, unfortunately, Dwight and Andray missed the first day. Today, McKenzie had to rest. But, overall they’re starting to feel for each other. They’re starting to know the strengths of our local players too so it’s progressing the right way I’d say.”

Credit belongs to : www.mb.com.ph

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