MANILA—After pulling out of the pocket tournament in Qatar, Smart Gilas Pilipinas is aiming to put together a pair of tuneup games against Jordan and a couple more in China for the PBA stars to blend in before the Fiba Asia Championship.
Philippine five headcoach Rajko Toroman said they would need at least five international games for Talk N Text’s Jimmy Alapag, Kelly Williams and Ranidel de Ocampo to get into the flow in time for the Asian championship in Wuhan, China on September 15-25.
With the sudden exit of Dondon Hontiveros and injuries to guards JV Casio (knee), Chris Lutz (elbow) and team captain Chris Tiu (ankle), Toroman has also enlisted TNT marksman Larry Fonacier and stocky playmaker Ryan Reyes to fill the gaps.
Toroman said the Nationals would enter the final stretch of preparations on August 24 and expect the TNT players to join them on August 29, more than a week’s rest after last night’s Game 7 finale between the Petron Blaze Boosters and the Tropang Texters in the PBA Governors Cup Finals.
Though the target is to play at least 10 international games with the PBA stars prior to Wuhan, Toroman would be satisfied if the Smart Gilas management could come up with five.
He said Jordan would be invited to come over on September 8 or 9 for two games.
Smart Gilas will then fly to China for two-three more friendlies against Chinese ballclubs before opening its Fiba Asia campaign on September 15 opposite United Arab Emirates, which the Filipinos smothered, 95-60, in the recent Jones Cup in Taipei.
“Before, I was talking about 8-10 games but now I will be happy with five,” said Toroman. “I hope we could get those games in China before Fiba Asia.”
The national team was supposed to grind it out in the four-nation Doha meet, which includes Lebanon, Syria and Qatar, this week but begged off since the TNT players couldn’t make it.
The Philippines is bracketed in Group D with host China, Bahrain and UAE in the first round of the Asian championship, which stakes a continental seat to the 2012 London Olympics.
Expected to topple UAE and Bahrain in the preliminaries, the Filipinos will most likely meet Japan, Jordan and Syria in the second round with the top four teams among six qualifiers advancing to the quarterfinals.
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