Ambush waiting in SEABA?
- Joaquin M. Henson () - March 25, 2007 - 12:00am
National coach Chot Reyes isn’t taking any chances in preparing for the SEABA championships in Ratchaburi, Thailand, on May 24-28 as the possibility of an ambush looms.

After the Philippines’ suspension was lifted by FIBA, the Samahang Basketbol Ng Pilipinas (SBP) offered to host the SEABA tournament where the two finalists qualify to play in the FIBA-Asia championships in Tokushima, Japan, on July 28-Aug. 5.

FIBA-Asia secretary-general Dato Yeoh Choo Hock of Malaysia initially said Thailand encountered sponsorship problems and may give up the hosting rights. But in the end, Thailand decided to host the event for the first time ever.

Since the inaugural SEABA championships, the Philippines has hosted six tournaments and Malaysia, two. Malaysia won the first title in 1994 and the Philippines swept the next six only to yield the throne back to Malaysia two years ago by default.

"We’re expecting the worst," said a national team insider." Ratchaburi is under martial law. There was an appeal to hold the tournament in Bangkok instead but it was turned down. Thailand is celebrating the King’s 80th birthday this year and the SEABA tournament is a milestone event in the calendar. No doubt, Thailand is looking forward to winning the title."

Only five countries – Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines – will play in Ratchaburi. After a single-round robin, the lowest-ranked team is eliminated and the four survivors will play in the crossover knockout semifinals with the winners to dispute the crown.

"We will be sending an advance team to Ratchaburi to make arrangements for hotel, transportation and practice facilities," said the insider." Thailand expects to win so we are prepared to fight the odds."

Although the Philippines is heavily favored to win the title, it may encounter some rough sailing.

Thailand is reportedly calling on three reinforcements from foreign schools – Oun Savueth of St. Claire in Canada, Saelee Kao of Mendocino Community College in California and junior varsity cager Krit Vichaiwatamapanich of Worcester Academy in Massachusetts.

Indonesia lost a close 74-71 decision to eventual champion Malaysia in the last SEABA championships and will be out for revenge. Malaysia gained valuable experience playing against the Melbourne Tigers, Yulong of Chinese-Taipei and the Singapore All-Stars in a four-way competition in Singapore last year.

SBP president Manny Pangilinan will fly to Ratchaburi for the last three days of the tournament.

A source said Reyes is not likely to fill the vacant 12th spot in the national team roster even as Eric Menk, James Yap, Kelly Williams and Enrico Villanueva are often mentioned as options for a possible late addition.

The team leaves on Tuesday to attend the two-week Abunassar Impact Basketball (AIB) camp in Carson City, California. If the PBL-Harbour Centre team wins the SEABA Champions Cup in Indonesia next month, Reyes will bring the national squad to the FIBA-Asia Champions Cup in Iran on May 12-20 before going to Ratchaburi.

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