By WAYLON P. GALVEZ
• NICK GIONGCO
National team head coach Yeng Guiao and seven of his players that competed in the Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games will resume practice session tonight as they prepare for the upcoming FIBA World Cup qualifiers against Iran and Qatar this month.
Guiao expects all invited players to be present in tonight’s practive sessions at the Meralco Gym in Quezon City.
The start of training gives the Guiao and his squad exactly 10 days before the Filipinos play Iran in Tehran on September 13. The national team returns home to host Qatar on September 17 in a closed door encounter to be implemented by FIBA at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The national team arrived last Saturday after it finished fifth overall following a convincing 109-55 win against Syria in the consolation round of the Asian Games last Friday.
Guiao and his coaching staff tabbed seven players from his Asian Games squad, namely Paul Lee, Beau Belga, Raymond Almazan, Gabe Norwood, JP Erram, Asi Taulava, Christian Standhardinger and Stanley Pringle.
Joining them in the training pool are Scottite Thompson, Greg Slaughter, Ian Sangalang, Alex Cabagnot and Marcio Lassiter, as well as Gilas Pilipinas regulars Allein Maliksi and Matthew Wright.
The dilemma of Guiao, however, is the status of Fil-foreigners Standhardinger, Slaughter and Pringle, who are all considered ‘naturalized’ players under the FIBA rules.
Also being considered by Guiao is naturalized Filipino Marcus Douthit, who last played for the Philippines in 2014 but reportedly expressed his desire to play for the two games.
“For now we don’t have a decision, we’ll decide on that after a couple of practice,” said Guiao. “Our main concern in height because we’ll be facing Iran with 7-foot-2 center Hamed Haddadi.”
The Iranian basketball team that placed second here will practically be the same unit that head coach Mehran Shahintab will utilize against the Philippines in their FIBA faceoff.
“Most of the players here will play,” said Shahintab following Iran’s 84-72 defeat at the hands of China at the stylish Istora Gelora, the refurbished 7,100-seat arena that will play host to matches in the 2023 FIBA World Cup.
“Maybe (I will change) one or two players and I hope to play well,” said Shahintab.
While Iran is sending its core, the Philippines is scrambling to come up with a potent squad, something head coach Yeng Guiao acknowledges as a tough task.
Despite his team’s obvious edge in size and bench depth, Shahintab is cautious.
“We respect the Philippines team,” he said, obviously aware of the Filipinos’ exploits here the last two weeks.
Besides, Chinese taskmaster Li Nan spoke well of how the Philippines nearly ruined their plans in the preliminaries.
“That was a great game. We got some lucky and beat them by just two points but I think my players got to build on their confidence (after this experience),” said Li, who escaped with an 82-80 win that sent the Philippines slamming against Korea, instead of Indonesia in the quarters and possibly Chinese-Taipei in the semis.