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Gilas opens China tournament vs Iran

(UPDATE) EVEN without key pool members led by Utah Jazz star Jordan Clarkson, big man Kai Sotto and Scottie Thompson, Gilas Pilipinas tries to learn as much as it can when it faces Iran in the 2023 Heyuan WUS International Basketball Tournament in Guangdong, China on Thursday.

The veteran pair of June Mar Fajardo and Japeth Aguilar will be leading the way for Gilas, which won't have a naturalized player as Clarkson will head straight from Los Angeles to Manila early next week.

The six-foot Thompson, on the other hand, did not join Gilas as he continues to recover from a metacarpal fracture on his shooting hand.

The national squad begins the short tournament against Iran on Thursday at the Heyuan Sports gymnasium. Gilas had its first practice in the same gym, just a few hours upon arriving in Heyuan.

Gilas Pilipinas’ Dwight Ramos (right) FIBA PHOTO

The 6-foot-10 Fajardo and Aguilar, 6-9, are the most experienced players in the squad, having been part of the 2014 and 2019 editions of the FIBA World Cup.

Both big men were part of the Philippine team that upstaged Senegal 81-79 in overtime in the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Seville, Spain, marking the country's first win in the world stage in four decades.

The Philippines will be facing Senegal on Friday, as both teams face off for the first time since 2014.

Before leaving for Guangdong, Gilas coach Chot Reyes said the team is “in good spirits” amid shocking development of the 7-foot-3 Sotto's “sudden unavailability” in the China cage joust.

Reyes, in fact, evaded talking about Sotto's status with Gilas.

“I think that's better, a question asked of him (Sotto), but I refused to comment on it anymore (and) the best person to ask (about Sotto's status) is team manager Butch Antonio. He's the one in negotiation with their camp,” Reyes told Martie Bautista of News5.

Veteran national player Kiefer Ravena believes Sotto knows the true condition of his body since sustaining back spasm during the Orlando Magic's final NBA Summer League game against the Boston Celtics weeks ago.

“He alone knows what his body is going through,” Ravena said in Filipino in the same interview. “Whether he tries to play or not, but we know the kid is willing to play for the Philippines.”

The Philippines will be facing an Iran side, which is in the process of rebuilding its men's basketball squad. Seven-foot-two veteran slotman Hamed Haddadi is now 38 and has recently undergone foot surgery after rupturing his Achilles tendon, according to the recent report by the Tehran Times.

The Iranians defeated the Filipinos in the 2019 FIBA World Cup to claim the lone Asian spot in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Reyes said the team is still “far off where we want to be,” but will use the pocket tournament to work further on its offense and defense as Gilas heads to the final phase of its FIBA World Cup preparation.

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Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net

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