Kuwait poses serious challenge to Gilas bid
- Joey Villar, Nelson Beltran () - November 10, 2010 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Smart Gilas Team Pilipinas has refused to look beyond its knockout game against Kuwait in the preliminary phase of the 16th Asian Games basketball competitions, saying the Kuwaitis remain a tough rival with their highly physical game.

The Nationals need to get past the Kuwaitis in a knockout duel Saturday to join seeded teams China, Iran, Jordan, Korea, Qatar, Japan, Chinese Taipei and Uzbekistan in the main draw.

The Philippines, Kuwait, India, Afghanistan, Hong Kong, North Korea, Turkmenista and Mongolia fight it out for four slots in the main group.

“It will not be easy as it would be a rough game. They are undersized with not much skills but very aggressive. They would provoke technical fouls,” said Smart Gilas coach Rajko Toroman.

“They’re a very rough team. They will be no pushovers. There is no such thing as an easy KO match anyway,” said Chot Reyes, a former national coach who flew with the team to Guangzhou, China to assist Toroman.

In the latest FIBA ranking, Kuwait is ranked a notch higher than the Philippines at 52nd. The Kuwaitis are also under a Serbian coach in Zoran Kreokovic.

The two teams last faced each other in the 2009 FIBA Asia Championship in Tianjin, China with the all-pro team of coach Yeng Guiao prevailing, 85-71.

The Kuwaitis put up a semblance of a fight but Kreokovic, in the post-game interview, said, “They (the Filipinos) have so much skills and talent that we knew we can’t beat them.”

Kuwait’s top players are guard Shayee Saeed and forwards Mohammad Ashkanani and Rashes Al-Rabah who all averaged double-digit outputs in the last Asian joust.

The Kuwaitis have competed in 11 Asian Championships and have never had a podium finish.

SBP executive director Noli Eala said Kuwait has not played much lately because of a suspension by the International Basketball Federation.

“I think Gilas should be able to handle them handily. It will also be a good time for the whole team to get more adjusted to each other. We can’t be complacent though,” said Eala.

Smart Gilas had played a Kuwaiti team in the recent Doha International Invitationals. The Nationals walloped the Kuwaitis even as the latter played with three imports.

ASIA CHAMPIONSHIP ASIAN CHAMPIONSHIPS ASIAN GAMES CHINESE TAIPEI AND UZBEKISTAN CHOT REYES DOHA INTERNATIONAL INVITATIONALS HONG KONG INTERNATIONAL BASKETBALL FEDERATION KUWAITIS MOHAMMAD ASHKANANI AND RASHES AL-RABAH SMART GILAS
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