Thais pose biggest threat

- Joey Villar, Nelson Beltran () - May 10, 2007 - 12:00am
A breeze or an ambush awaits SMC-Team Philippines in Ratchaburi, Thailand as it plays the host team, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore in a single-round, no-final competition to dispute the SEABA men’s championship from May 24-28.

The Nationals take opening-day bye on the 24th, then tackle Singapore on the 25th, Malaysia on the 26th, Indonesia on the 27th and Thailand on the 28th.

The team with the best record after the single round robin is automatically declared the champion. Ties will be resolved by the quotient system of tiebreak.

"The schedule and the format of competition obviously were designed to favor the host team. They scheduled us to play four straight games with them as our final opponent. They’re looking for an ambush," said PBA commissioner Noli Eala.

PBA coaches say the host apparently is thinking that’s the best way to upset the Philippines, resigned to the fact that they can’t beat the Filipinos twice.

But coach Junel Baculi, a new addition to coach Chot Reyes’ staff, believes there’s no way the all-pro RP team can be beaten in SEABA.

The Nationals can’t afford not to win the SEABA championship as it serves as the qualifier among Southeast Asian countries for the FIBA-Asia championship in Tokoshima, Japan in July.

The team warms up for SEABA and the FIBA-Asia Championship as it leaves tomorrow for Tehran, Iran for the Fiba-Asia Champions Cup from May 12-22.

"We’re not going to Tehran to win. We’re going there to get better," said RP team coach Chot Reyes on his decision not to exercise their right to play with an import in the Champions Cup.

Twelfth man Enrico Villanueva, accompanied by RP team assistant coach Nash Racela, follows the RP team in Tehran right after Red Bull’s out-of-town game in Cebu versus San Miguel Beer Saturday.

Right after the Red Bull-San Miguel game, Villanueva takes the 9:30 p.m. Cebu Pacific flight to Manila then tries to catch the 12:20 a.m. Emirates Air to Tehran.

Still uncertain is Villanueva’s stint in the SEABA men’s championship.

The Thais, who have reportedly recruited two Thai-American players, could well offer the toughest challenge to the Nationals in SEABA. They didn’t expose their recruits as they opted not to play in the recent SEABA Champions Cup in Jakarta.

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