CHANGSHA, China – If the trend holds true, a familiar figure could be waiting for Gilas Pilipinas at the other side of the fence come the knockout stage of the Fiba Asia Championship here.
If Filipinos beat India in their final preliminary round assignment on Tuesday and end up on top of Group E, they get to meet the no. 4 team in Group F which is being disputed by Jordan and Lebanon.
The Jordanians of course, are now being handled by Serbian Rajko Toroman, the first coach of the original Smart Gilas Pilipinas.
Jordan entered the day in fourth place in its group with an even 2-2 record after so far winning all its games in the second round preliminary, the latest an 87-73 beating of Kazakhstan Monday night. The Jordanians earlier created a stir when they dealt previously unbeaten Qatar an 84-73 loss.
Lebanon, without star player Fadi El-Katib, is just a notch below in fifth place with a 1-3 card as it lost for the second straight night following a 90-72 rout at the hands of host China also on Monday.
But which between the two teams advance in the quarterfinals will be determined as the Jordanians and Lebanese clash during the final day of the preliminaries on Tuesday in a virtual do-or-die encounter for both countries.
Gilas is tied with Iran at no. 1 in its group with similar 3-1 slates and could clinch the top spot should it beat India even if it ends up with similar record with the Iranians after stunning the defending champions last Monday, 87-73.
Coach Tab Baldwin however, would rather not delve on what lies ahead for the team whoever it faces in the knockout stage.
“The games would not be easy. We were trying to come here and get the first spot through the first two pools. If we do our jobs it looks we’ll have that. So that’s good for us,” he said.
Toroman was the man at the helm of the first ever Gilas team that has in its roster the likes of JV Casio, Chris Tiu, Marcio Lassiter, Chris Lutz, Dylan Ababou, Mark Barroca, and naturalized player Marcus Douthit, among others.
Reinforced by a slew of PBA players, the team reached the semifinals of the 2011 Fiba Asia Championship in Wuhan, China, losing to South Korea in the battle for the bronze medal play.
Toroman assumed the coaching job of Jordan last year and even played a series of tune-up games in Manila against several PBA ballclubs prior to proceeding here for the Olympic qualifying meet.
The Serbian had been spotted watching the Gilas-Iran game at ringside of the Changsha Social Work Colleges gym here.