The SMART-Gilas Pilipinas national team, helmed by coach Jong Uichico and led by naturalized center Marcus Douthit and three pros from the Alaska Aces, is set to begin its campaign in the SEABA qualifying tournament for the FIBA Asia Cup in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
The five-team tournament will start on Tuesday with Malaysia taking on Indonesia and Thailand facing Singapore while the Philippines takes an opening day bye.
The Philippine team starts its campaign on Wednesday against Singapore before taking on Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand in the coming days.
The tournament acts as qualifying for the 2012 FIBA Asia Cup, formerly known as the FIBA Asia Stankovic Cup, to be held in Tokyo, Japan later this year. Only one representative from the SEABA will qualify for the FIBA Asia Cup.
The nationals should not encounter too much trouble in the tournament, with three key holdovers from the SMART-Gilas team that swept the SEABA Championship last year by an average winning margin of 40 points. Douthit, Chris Tiu and Alaska rookie Mac Baracael averaged 12.3, 10.5 and 11 points, respectively, in the SEABA tilt.
PBA stars LA Tenorio and Sonny Thoss also reinforce the squad, which should have more than enough firepower in this tourney.
They will be backed up by a solid amateur crew comprised of Aldrech Ramos, Garvo Lanete, Dave Marcelo, Emman Monfort, Borgie Hermida and Woody Co.
Lanete, Marcelo, Monfort and Tiu were also part of the all-amateur Sinag Pilipinas squad that breezed through the Southeast Asian Games last year.
The Philippines defeated Singapore by 55 points in the SEABA last year, where they also crushed Indonesia twice, by 40 in the round robin and by 39 in the finals. They clobbered Malaysia by 26 points in the SEABA and by 29 in the SEA Games semifinals and Thailand twice in the SEA Games – by 34 in the group phase and by 28 in the finals.
The SEABA representative will be drawn in the FIBA Asia Cup with regional powerhouse China, Lebanon, Macau and the yet to be named representative from the Central Asian Basketball Association.
The other group is comprised of Iran, Chinese Taipei, Qatar, host Japan and the South Asian Basketball Association representative.
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