TAIPEI – Smart Gilas Pilipinas faces another welcome challenge today in the 32nd William Jones Cup as it takes on host Chinese-Taipei, a typical Asian team playing like neighbors China, South Korea and Japan.
The Filipinos and the Taiwanese clash at 7 p.m. in a battle between two teams in deep preparation for the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China in November.
It marks the first time Smart Gilas will encounter an eastern Asian team since its formation in December 2008.
The Gilas boys are now awash in experience playing Middle Eastern teams like Iran, Lebanon, Jordan and Qatar but they’ve yet to play anyone among old Asian powers China, Korea, Japan and Chinese Taipei.
“There’s a big difference between teams from the Middle East and the Far East. The Middle Eastern teams play European style of basketball. Teams like Korea and Chinese-Taipei play a whole lot different,” said Thomas Baldwin, the American coach of the Lebanon team.
“They’re small, so they try to compensate with their quickness. You’ll beat them in rebounding and on second-chance points but they get back at you, scoring heavily on transition plays. They just keep on pushing the ball,” Baldwin added.
Though missing two big guys now trying their luck in the NBA Summer League, the Taiwanese put up a tough fight before yielding to the Lebanese, 84-93, Friday.
Chinese-Taipei plays very well like Korea and China, having been previously trained by a Korean coach and now by former Chinese hotshot Zhang Xue-Lei.
But Smart Gilas coach RajkoToroman is well familiar with the Taiwanese.
“They lack the size now and for sure they will play the zone most of the time. We have to be ready for that,” said Toroman.
Toroman is also aware that the Taiwanese play up-tempo basketball and rotate the ball well to spot the shooters on a half-court game.
“We have to spread our defense, knowing these guys are dead shots. It’s better to let them penetrate, and Marcus Douthit will take care of them,” said assistant coach Allan Gregorio.
The Filipinos and the Taiwanese both had a 2-1 win-loss card through the first three days of the weeklong invitational tourney being played at the Hsinchuang Gymnasium in Hsinchuang City, about 50 kilometers south of the Taiwanese capital.
Smart Gilas took a break while Chinese-Taipei played Japan yesterday.
Still, the Filipinos continued to work, holding an afternoon practice at a multi-purpose venue inside the sprawling Taipei Sports Complex in the heart of the city.
The Nationals are bracing up for keenly awaited matches against the Taiwanese today, the Japanese tomorrow then the Lebanese at the close of the tourney Tuesday.