3 down, 3 to go for Gilas

Joaquin Henson - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Gilas plays host Vietnam tonight, Malaysia on Saturday and Indonesia on Sunday in ending its stint in men’s basketball at the Hanoi SEA Games with the gold medal in sight. The seven-nation tournament is a single round robin format with no playoff or final. The team that finishes on top of the heap is declared the champion. Ties are broken via the quotient system. So far, the Philippines has raced to a 3-0 record but the first win was a harrowing 76-73 cliffhanger over Thailand souped up by three US-born players.

Vietnam is coached by Kevin Yurkus, an American from Arizona State. He was based in Thailand before moving to Vietnam. Yurkus is a two-time Vietnam league Coach of the Year. His American recruits are 6-2 Christian Juzang of Harvard, 5-7 Corey Cilia of the University of California at Santa Cruz, 6-4 Justin Young (also known as Vinh Luan Duong) of Chapman College and 6-7 Chris Dierker of Madonna University. Young, Dierker, Dinh Thanh Tam and Tran Dang Khoa were on the Vietnam squad that took silver in the 3x3 event. The four players are on the men’s basketball team.

Young received his Vietnamese passport in 2018 when he was 25. Juzang’s father Maxie is a Creole while his mother Hanh is Vietnamese. He averaged 6.6 points in four years with the Harvard varsity and graduated in 2019-20. In Bali last April, Juzang scored 21 points and Cilia 15 in Vietnam’s 94-47 romp over Zamboanga during the ABL pre-SEA Games tournament. Cilia, 25, and Juzang, 24, joined the Vietnamese national team this year. An inquiry has been made to FIBA on the eligibility of Vietnam’s American recruits. SEA Games eligibility rules for basketball are aligned with FIBA so each team is entitled to only one naturalized player and players born abroad must have been issued their passports before 16.

Thailand has several US recruits whose backgrounds should likewise be checked. Freddie Lee Jones Lish is actually Freddie Goldstein of South Alabama. Goldstein, 33, is listed in eurobasket.com as American-Israeli. If he’s not considered naturalized, he must have received his Thai passport 17 years ago before he turned 16. Another player is Antonio Price Soonthornchote but his real name is Tra Holder of Arizona State. His parents are Tony Holder and Charee Rodgers. Then there is 6-6 Moses Morgan of DePaul. Who among the three is naturalized?

Indonesia’s coach is no longer Rajko Toroman who has been elevated as technical director to make room for his Serbian countryman Milos Pejic. Toroman, 67, was formerly a PBA coach with Barako and Petron and took Iran to the 2008 Olympics. Pejic, 53, is the Indonesian league Coach of the Year. Indonesia’s foreign recruits are 6-4 Dame Diagne of Senegal, 6-10 naturalized import Marques Bolden and 6-4 Brandon Jawato of the University of Hawaii. Jawato received his Indonesian passport as a naturalized citizen in 2020 when he was 27. Bolden, 24, played seven games over two NBA seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers. It appears that Bolden and Jawato are both naturalized. “SEA countries are improving in basketball which is good for the game,” said SBP deputy executive director Butch Antonio. But improvement should be within eligibility rules.


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