Chot: Gilas has ‘very little knowledge’ on Cambodia

Chot Reyes has always cited defending champion Indonesia, Thailand and even Vietnam as the regional powers Gilas Pilipinas will have to contend with during their preparation for the 32nd Southeast Asian Games men's basketball in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Cambodia’s Brandon Jerome Peterson (right) competes against Philippines’ Lervin Flores in their men’s final basketball 3×3 match during the 32nd Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) in Phnom Penh on May 7, 2023. AFP PHOTO

But heading to Thursday's match against host country Cambodia, a nation not known for excelling in basketball, Reyes admitted they had “very little knowledge” of their next opponent, except that they are being reinforced by a number of naturalized players.

“We have to be able to adjust and pivot during the game. We have very little knowledge about their games as a team. We have some information as individuals, but as a team, very little,” Reyes said, on the eve of the Philippines' collision with Cambodia.

A year ago, Reyes and that Gilas batch led by June Mar Fajardo, Roger Pogoy, Kiefer Ravena and Matthew Wright hardly broke out a sweat after bamboozling Cambodia, 100-32 in Hanoi, Vietnam.

But that is about to change come Thursday considering that Cambodia tapped six imports in an effort to boost its gold medal chances while hosting the biennial games for the first time in the nation's history.

Cambodia in fact, had a strong men's basketball debut on Tuesday, running roughshod over Singapore, 85-60. Comparatively, the Singaporeans had a much, much better basketball history than the Cambodians after taking home the bronze in the 2013 and 2015 SEA Games editions, and placed fifth in last year's cage joust in Vietnam.

Cambodia's artillery buildup though was greatly felt right in its opening game as Sayeed Pridgett, Brandon Peterson and Darrin Dorsey, members of the 3×3 team that defeated Gilas Pilipinas, 20-15 last Sunday to punch in the host nation's first-ever gold medal in basketball, played beautiful music together.

Add to that three more naturalized players in Oscar Lopes, Dwayne Morgan and Darius Henderson, and the Cambodians are suddenly a tournament favorite overnight.

While Gilas Pilipinas will have Justin Brownlee, who is making his SEA Games basketball debut as the Philippines' naturalized player, Reyes knows it will take more than just one player to beat a souped-up Cambodia.

“It's really a matter of how we can adapt. Our adaptability is going to be tested,” stressed Reyes, who is looking to redeem himself and the country from a silver medal after losing to Indonesia in the final day of the single-round competitions last year.

Other than Brandon Ganuelas-Rosser, who had an impressive debut in the cage joust of 15 points and five rebounds, two-time SEA Games gold medallist Christian Standhardinger and La Salle big man Michael Phillips will have his hands full manning the slot against Cambodia's phalanx of big reinforcements.

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