Gilas Pilipinas head coach Chot Reyes will bank on his deep roster of talented individuals led by NBA star Jordan Clarkson when they take on Lebanon to start the fourth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers in the wee hours of Friday, Aug. 26, at the Nouhad Nawfal Stadium.
The nationals, bannered by a mix of young and veteran wits that include 7-foot-3 center Kai Sotto, will face the Asia Cup silver medalist squad that will surely rely on tournament MVP Wael Arakji at 2 a.m. (Manila time).
Boasting an even record of 2-2 after the first round of the qualifiers, expectations are running high for the Filipino dribblers after securing the services of Clarkson, Sotto, a slew of overseas imports and top players from the PBA.
First-timers Chris Newsome, Roosevelt Adams and Jamie Malonzo lead the new faces for the national team while Scottie Thompson, Japeth Aguilar, Calvin Oftana were the other PBA players making their returns to Gilas.
Still in the crew is lone collegiate standout Carl Tamayo who will be joined by B.League players Dwight Ramos, Ray Parks Jr. and brothers Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena.
Seeing these players in practice, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas executive director and spokesperson Sonny Barrios raves on how the lineup differs from the previous Gilas rosters and noted that the team showed faster ball movements and less ball hogging.
“’Yung ball movement kahapon, nakita ko ang ganda. May mga plays sila na sa totoo lang, ngayon lang namin nakikita. I think they are adapting to specific opponents. Ganun na ‘yung takbo ng preparation natin,” said Barrios referring to Gilas’ practice at the Meralco Gym last Sunday, Aug. 21, before they flew for Beirut early Tuesday.
“Sa offense, sa nakita ko, fast ball movement including moving without the ball, patience in taking a shot, hindi nagmamadali, give it to the open man, kung may sasalaksak, natakpan, kick out. Move the ball fast. Wala ‘yung mga matagal na ball-hogging na point guard,” he added.
In the most recent contest between the two teams, Lebanon defeated a youth-laden Gilas in the group stage of the FIBA Asia Cup 2022, 95-80.
From that squad, only the Ravena brothers, Parks, and Tamayo were left in the team while the Cedars’ top performers in naturalized center Jonathan Arledge, Sergio El Darwich and sweet-shooting big man Hayk Gyokchan are expected to backstop Arakji anew against the Filipinos.
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