AN old, familiar foe tests the mettle of this latest batch of Smart Gilas-Pilipinas when it plays its first game together in the 34th William Jones Cup basketball tournament Saturday in Taiwan.
Jordan, which twice broke the hearts of Filipinos in the Fiba-Asia Men’s Championship, takes on the Nationals of coach Chot Reyes in one of several opening games kicking off the annual meet in honor of the former International Basketball Federation secretary-general.
The national squad plunges into action a day after arriving in the Chinese-Taipei capital, where they will stay for more than a week and play eight games in a nine-day span.
And the Jordanians, runners-up to China in last year’s FIBA-Asia Championship, are the first to take a stab at a team comprising of 10 pros and two amateurs.
The Jordanians will still parade high-scoring guard Rasheim Wright, Ahmed Al-Hamarsheh and Mohammad Shaher, but they reportedly no longer have the prolific Sam Daghles and Zaid Abbas.
Both Daghles and Abbas played key roles when Jordan eliminated the Gilas team of Serbian coach Rajko Toroman in the semifinals of the 2011 Fiba-Asia Olympic qualifier in Wuhan, China, and were also with the team that ousted the Powerade-PH five in the quarterfinals of the same tournament in 2009 (Tianjin, China).
Jordan is fresh from seeing action in the 2012 Fiba World Olympic Qualifying Tournament For Men in Caracas, Venezuela and the Cyprus Invitational tournament, where it both failed to register wins.
In contrast, Smart Gilas 2 is competing in just its first international tournament since it was formed a few months back. Only naturalized player Marcus Douthit and Mac Baracael remain from the same Gilas roster that finished third in last year’s edition of the Jones Cup.
But Reyes said the exposure in the tournament is being used by the team to know more about the players and eventually, how to use them when the ‘real battle’ is played in next year’s Fiba-Asia tournament – which serves as the qualifier to the 2014 Fiba-World Championship in Spain.
Beefing up the new Gilas team are top gunners Gary David, Jeff Chan, Larry Fonacier, L.A. Tenorio, and Sol Mercado, while manning the post are big men Sonny Thoss, Rico Villanueva, and JR Reyes.
The two amateurs are Garvo Lanete and new Fil-Am recruit, 6-foot-5 Ganuela Rosser.
After Jordan, the Nationals take on the Chinese-Taipei B on Sunday and then take a rest the following day.
Then they see action in the next six play dates starting on Tuesday against South Korea, followed by Japan (Wednesday), Lebanon (Thursday), defending champion Iran (Friday), host Chinese-Taipei A (Saturday), and USA on the final day (Sunday).
The top team after the single round competition will be the outright champion of the meet, last won by the Philippines in 1998 behind the Centennial Team of coach Tim Cone.