Gilas Pilipinas Tune-up Games Preview: Philippines vs Ivory Coast
Enzo Flojo on Aug 07, 2019 03:03 PM
Many of Ivory Coast's players are mainstays in a number of leagues in Europe, most notably the LNB or Ligue Nationale de Basket in France (Photo courtesy of FIBA.com)
The Philippine national team started their preparations on a bright note, defeating Congo, 102-80, in a closed door tune-up game yesterday.
That's no small feat, especially considering how Congo recently won the 2019 AfroCan tournament held in Mali. The Congolese were mighty impressive in that tournament, sweeping all five of their matches, including wins over continental powerhouses Nigeria and Angola.
Next up for the Filipinos today will be the Ivory Coast or Cote d'Ivoire, which qualified to the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup after finishing third in their African Qualifiers group behind Nigeria and Senegal.
On paper, the Ivorians should pose a much tougher stand than the Congolese, this despite not having any Ivorian players from the NBA. Many of their players, however, are mainstays in a number of leagues in Europe, most notably the LNB or Ligue Nationale de Basket in France.
Ivory Coast's main man will likely be shifty guard Souleyman Diabate, who plays for SLUC Nancy in the second tier of the LNB. The 6 foot Diabate played in all twelve Qualifiers matches for the Ivory Coast, averaging 9.2 points, 4.2 assists, 2.3 steals, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.6 triples per game. For sure, his match-up with Mark Barroca and Paul Lee will be entertaining.
Another Ivorian to watch out for is 27-year-old, 6'9" center Baru Adjehi, who used to play for the Charleston Cougars in the US NCAA. Adjehi gives up some size to our very own Andray Blatche, but he has the heft and skill-set to be a dangerous inside operator. He carves up a lot of space in the paint, can finish strong, and rebounds pretty well.
Ivory Coast's most explosive scorers will probably be the duo of Vafessa Fofana and Charles-Noe' Abouo. Fofana, a 6'7" combo forward, was actually born in France but sees action for Ivory Coast internationally. He was among the team's best scorers in the Qualifiers, tossing in a high of 21 points against Rwanda. Abouo is another one to check. The 6'5" wingman is a streaky outside shooter and can really hurt the Filipinos with his stroke. Fofana plays for Cholet Basket in the LNB's top tier, while Abouo plies his trade for ADA Blois Basket 41 of the second tier.
Probably tasked to defend them will be Robert Bolick, CJ Perez, and Gabe Norwood. Those are likely going to be interesting match-ups given how we don't have as much size at the wings. It'll be great practice for coach Yeng Guiao's wards, who will expect even bigger and tougher foes at the World Cup.
A new name on the Ivory Coast's roster is California-born Deon Thompson, who plays for Unicaja in Spain. The 6'9" Thompson will be the team's designated naturalized player at the World Cup, and he will shore up their frontline along with Adjehi. He was a US NCAA champion in 2009 with the UNC Tar Heels before making a name for himself in the Euroleague and Eurocup. He will be a handful.
Barring any unforeseen obstacles, however, the Philippines, with Blatche and Japeth Aguilar showing fine form along with great play from their wings and guards, should be a slight favorite in this game before they have a rematch with Congo.