FORMER Gilas Pilipinas coach Rajko Toroman tips the Philippines to be among the top three contenders in the coming Fiba Asia Championships that reels off in Changsha, China on September 23.
Toroman, who led Gilas to a fourth-place finish in the 2011 Fiba Asia Championship in Wuhan, China, is putting the Philippines just behind title favorite and host China and defending champion Iran, with South Korea, Japan and his own team Jordan lagging behind.
“They are very good, for sure they have a chance for the medal," said Toroman during Jordan's unannounced practice at the Gatorade Hoops Center.
"I say China is still the team to beat because they play at home, second maybe Iran because they played good in the last Jones Cup and they have been playing longer together plus they have Hamed Haddadi.”
Asked about the current Gilas side coached by Tab Baldwin, who ironically used to coach Jordan, Toroman said he believes other Asian teams will have a hard time scouting the Filipinos because of their speed which he said compensates for their lack of ceiling.
From the last Jones Cup, Toroman said Gilas still uses a variety of the dribble-drive employed with success by former national coach Chot Reyes, taking advantage of the quickness of players like Jayson Castro, Terrence Romeo and Calvin Abueva.
“What I saw in the Philippines in the last Jones Cup, they still use the dribble and drive, they exploit the quickness of Jayson Castro and Terrence Romeo and Calvin Abueva. Yes they are very fast and their bigs like Asi (Taulava) runs so well,” he said.
“It will be very difficult to scout them (Gilas) because of the way they are playing, dribble and drive is a very specific system. It’s hard to defend them, they spread the floor, they have big men like Blatche who can spread the floor,” he said.
“It will be very difficult to scout the Philippines. It’s easier to scout the other teams than the Philippines, because you scout them today, next thing you know they run a new set of plays,” he said.
Blatche will be a major piece in Baldwin's plans, Toroman added.
“They have a big inside player, big NBA player in Blatche, that’s a big difference. In this tournament he already showed that he can be a main part of the Gilas team,” he said.
The 60-year old veteran internationalist also highlighted the addition of young guns Abueva and Romeo, who have blended well with the veterans led by Ranidel de Ocampo and Marc Pingris.
“They are fresh legs that will create problems for the opposing teams. They are very fast and they were impressive in the last Jones Cup,” he said.
Toroman also said exposure in high-level tournaments in the Philippines like the PBA is a big advantage for Gilas players, so unlike in Jordan where basketball is not the main sport.
“Basketball is really great here. I had a great time here, and now that I am in Jordan, I miss more the Philippines,” he said.
“I was even joking that in the Philippines, it’s a very difficult climate, but great basketball. In Jordan, excellent climate like a spa but no basketball,” he added with a smile.
View video of interview with Toroman: