The Philippine national men’s basketball team seeks redemption as it opens its 2017 FIBA Asia Cup campaign against defending champion China on Wednesday at the Nouhad Nawfal Sports Complex in Beirut, Lebanon.
The finals rematch of the tournament’s 2015 edition tips off Group B action which also includes Qatar and Iraq.
This marks the first time that the two bitter rivals face off since their memorable tiff two years ago that saw host China deny Gilas Pilipinas a ticket to the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Once again, Gilas Pilipinas comes in as a heavy underdog against China. The absence of naturalized player Andray Blatche and injured three-time PBA MVP June Mar MVP also doesn’t help the undersized Filipinos who have to battle the taller Chinese.
China, which boasts of two seven-footers, doesn’t have a player standing under 6’3″.
And while China is missing former NBA player Yi Jianlian and Houston Rockets rookie Zhou Qi, the squad still doesn’t run out of ammunition as 6’4″ guard Guo Ailun–a 2015 FIBA Asia Mythical Five member and arguably the best Chinese guard today–spearheads their title defense bid.
Despite the huge odds, Gilas Pilipinas tries to kick off its campaign on a high note, with FIBA Asia veterans Jayson Castro, Gabe Norwood, Terrence Romeo, Calvin Abueva and Japeth Aguilar leading the team.
Matthew Wright, RR Pogoy, Jio Jalalon, Raymond Almazan, Christian Standhardinger and Carl Bryan Cruz also test their wares in their first-ever FIBA Asia tournament.