SEVEN-foot-three Zhang Zhaoxu may be looking down on most Filipino players, but the Chinese giant only has high praise for Gilas Pilipinas.
So much so that the Shanghai Sharks slotman, a mainstay of China's national basketball team, feels the Philippines will be a force to be reckoned with come the Fiba-Asia Men's Championship in Manila this August.
“There are familiar faces … very talented athletes,” Zhang said through an interpreter at the end of an exhibition match on Monday night which saw Gilas deal the Sharks an 80-72 beating at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Zhang, 25, is quite familiar with most of the members of the Philippine team, having suited up for China during the 2011 Fiba-Asia joust on home soil in Wuhan.
Among the familiar faces, he said, include Japeth Aguilar, who played in the Wuhan tournament two years ago. Incidentally, Zhang was at the wrong end of an Aguilar highlight when the former NCAA Division I player dunked on him in the fourth quarter.
Zhang also is aware that the Gilas team the Sharks faced on Monday was missing a lot of players who still have to finish their commitments with their respective mother teams in the PBA Commissioner's Cup.
“The Philippine team has not yet reach full condition but I believe with a full lineup, they will do damage in the competitions,” said Zhang, who led the Sharks with 17 points, 12 rebounds, and five blocks in the absence of fellow national team member Liu Wei due to a bum stomach.
“This is a well-coached team. They play high-level basketball. This is not the best lineup because your professional league is still ongoing. The best players are still playing. I assume that in the Asian championship, they will have a good team,” Zhang added.
Zhang only had good things to say about the Mall of Asia Arena, the venue for the Fiba-Asia championship.
“It is a good arena. Good lighting. Very comfortable,” Zhang said.
However, Zhang said he is not yet sure whether he will be back in Manila with the Chinese national team in August for the Asian championships.
“All the players have commitments now. After that, we will go back to China for training. But I’m not sure if I will make the team because we have a big roster,” Zhang said.