TAIPEI – After two convincing wins, Smart Gilas-Pilipinas got a one-day rest in its campaign in the 34th Jones Cup.
And it’s a well-deserved break the Nationals needed before plunging in the decisive phase of their bid.
In the first of a back-breaking six-day stretch where it will six straight games, the team faces Korea on Tuesday at the TPEC gymnasium in a battle between two of the three unbeaten teams so far in the tournament.
After Korea – which is represented by champion club team Anyang KGC, and reinforced by talented imports Garrett Stutz and Juan Pattillo – Gilas battles Japan, Lebanon, defending champion Iran and host Chinese-Taipei before capping its schedule with a final-day encounter against a US team.
“Even as we won by a big margin Sunday, we don’t have illusions about the coming games. It’s a treacherous trek, starting with the Korea game,” said national coach Chot Reyes.
“That’s the way the Jones Cup is. It’s a very good competition and it’s just how you cope with it. And that’s why we’re here -- to learn and get tested,” he added.
Smart Gilas won its first two outings against Jordan and Chinese-Taipei B for a 2-0 (win-loss) slate, and a tie for the early lead with the similarly undefeated Koreans and Iranians.
But the Nationals are expected to have their hands full against the Koreans, perennial contenders in the Asian region who finished second behind Iran in last year’s edition of the tournament being held in honor of the former Fiba secretary-general.
With Stutz, Patillo and national team players Oh Se Keun, Kim Tae Sul, and Yang Hee Jong showing the way, Korea routed Chinese-Taipei B, 109-83, and clobbered Lebanon, 94-78.
Stutz, at 6-foot-11, has the size, length and talent to match up with naturalized player Marcus Douthit, while the 6-foot-6 Pattillo could pose problems for the Filipinos with his versatility.
Ironically, Pattillo is the same guy Meralco Bolts considered as import replacement to Nigerian Olympian Champ Oguchi in the recent PBA Governors Cup.
“This team will present us a different challenge from the one we faced against Jordan. They’re tough pero yan naman talaga ang hanap natin dito,” said Reyes.
“There are two styles of games in Asia. One is the game played by teams like Iran, Lebanon and Jordan, and the other played by teams like Korea and Japan. In Korea, we’ll encounter a team playing the traditional Asian game,” Reyes explained.
“They press a lot. Magsisimula ng zone iyan tapos i-pre-press ka ng husto. Let’s see how the guys react,” Reyes added.
But Reyes is confident the Nationals have what it takes to counter their sweet-shooting opponents, convinced that their “dribble-drive offense” - the same pattern he ran at Talk N Text – is the perfect weapon for the national team.
The two players who’ll sit out today’s game will be game-day decisions by the coaching staff.
“I’ll play Matt Ganuela. I have to see his game. The others will be game-day decisions,” said Reyes who rested Garvo Lanete and JayR Reyes versus Jordan then Ganuela and Rico Villanueva against Chinese Taipei B.