PHI hoops teams begin SEA Games quests
ABS-CBN Sports on Aug 19, 2017 03:11 PM
The Philippine women's and men's basketball teams open their respective campaigns in the 29th Southeast Asian Games on Sunday.
7:15 p.m. --- Philippines vs Singapore (women’s)
8:30 p.m. --- Philippines vs Thailand (men’s)
KUALA LUMPUR – The Philippines kicks off its quest for its 17th gold medal when it battles Thailand in the men’s basketball competition of the 29th Southeast Asian Games Sunday at the MABA Stadium here.
After reigning supreme in the Southeast Asian Basketball Association (Seaba) Men’s Championship in Manila last May, hopes are high on Gilas Pilipinas despite the vast improvement of its competitors.
For one, Thailand, whom they will face at 9:30 pm following the 7:15 pm battle between the Philippines and Singapore in the women’s division, had shown tremendous improvement after winning the bronze medal in the SEABA tourney and nearly pulling the rug from under the Filipinos in the semifinals of the previous SEA Games in Singapore, 75-80.
The Filipinos also had some anxious moments before escaping Indonesia, 72-64, in the gold-medal match.
And Gilas Pilipinas head coach Jong Uichico humbly acknowledges that.
“That’s why we have to be consistent,” he said shortly after arriving in this bustling Malaysian capital late Friday. “The field had greatly improved. Everybody’s now playing well. We now have to work hard and prove that we deserve the crown.”
Gilas will not have the luxury of having a Marcus Douthit or Andray Blatche, but Filipino-German Christian Standhardinger will serve as its naturalized player to add power and ceiling to the relatively thin frontline that only has 6-foot-7 Troy Rosario and 6-foot-5 Kobe Paras as inside operators.
Despite suffering a stiff neck in the Fiba Asia Cup in Beirut, Standhardinger flew in here from Manila late Saturday to make himself available against the Thais.
Two-time SEA Games gold medalist Mac Belo also made the team as he was tapped as a last-minute replacement for injured Carl Bryan Cruz while Gilas coach Chot Reyes is also expected to be in town to help Uichico plot the Nationals’ gold-medal campaign.
“With Christian on board, at least we’ll have some size,” said Uichico, shooting down concerns about the Nationals’ lack of a natural center. “Christian would be able to help Troy and Kobe. At least medyo hindi tayo maagrabyado sa rebounding.”
Also campaigning for the Philippines are Ray Parks, Mike Tolomia, Baser Amer, Kiefer Ravena, Von Pessumal, Almond Vosotros, Kevin Ferrer and Raymar Jose.
Uichico reiterated that the tourney wouldn’t be a cakewalk, especially since they are playing in Kuala Lumpur – the site of the Philippines’ historic setback in the SEA Games in 1989.
“There’s always pressure in the SEA Games,” he said. “We just have to work hard to be able to handle it.”