The 2011 Jones Cup is one of the final tests for the SMART-Gilas Pilipinas national team as they gear up for the 2011 FIBA-Asia Championship in Wuhan, China in September, where a slot for the 2012 London Olympics is at stake. InterAKTV breaks down each opponent for the Philippine team in the Tapei tournament.
The Malaysian team is filled with members of the Westport KL Dragons team that engaged the Philippine Patriots in a tough Asean Basketball League semifinal series and qualified for the FIBA-Asia Champions’ Cup held recently in Manila.
They are coached by Dragons mentor Goh Cheng Huat, who is assisted in the ABL by former JRU Heavy Bombers coach Ariel Vanguardia. In fact, Vanguardia helmed the Dragons in the Champions’ Cup where the overmatched Malaysians lost all four assignments in the group stage, including a 95-64 beating at the hands of SMART-Gilas Pilipinas. The Dragons stayed competitive in the first half, before succumbing to the superior Philippine team in the second half.
But while the Filipinos will be bringing in a similar team to the Jones Cup, the Malaysians will not be able to rely on imports Christopher Ayer and Marcus Morrison, like in the Champions’ Cup, or on Filipino imports Rudy Lingganay, Patrick Cabahug and Angel Raymundo, like in the ABL.
Instead, they will have to lean on the outside shooting of 6-foot-3 local ace Loh Shee Fai and the playmaking of guard Batumalai Guganeswaran.
Loh, a reliable scorer, averaged 11.5 points built around a tournament-best 59% shooting from three-point range in the FIBA tourney in Manila. He most recently faced Gilas in the SEABA in Indonesia in June, where he finished the tournament with averages of 13 points and 3 rebounds with 57.1% shooting from beyond the arc.
One of the better guards in Southeast Asia, Batumalai is a skilled passer who normed 4.5 assists in the Champions Cup and 3.6 in the last ABL season. Both marks were an impressive 5th best in their respective tournaments.
After the two players, though, they will need other players to step up if they want to even be competitive.
The coach will look to 6-foot-6 big man Chee Li Wei, who was a frequent double-digit scorer in the SEABA or guard Ooi Ban Sin, who averaged 5.5 points and 3.5 assists in the Champions Cup. Forward John Ng (Yeo-Seng) could also be an option for the Malaysians.
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