SINCE the 2007 Fiba-Asia men’s championship in Tokushima, Japan, the Philippines has gone 1-3 in its head-to-head duel with nemesis Jordan.
Yet, during Thursday’s draw, Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes chose to join Jordan, Chinese-Taipei and Saudi Arabia in Group A during the first phase of the eliminations in this year's tournament in Manila.
So why the choice?
Gilas assistant coach Nash Racela, an assistant to Reyes during the 2007 edition, said he feels this year's Philippine team finally has the size to match up better against the Jordanians.
“Historically, 1-3 tayo (against Jordan), pero there were games na dikit pa rin tayo sa kanila. I was part of that team nung 2007 and naalala ko halos in control tayo nung game na iyon,” recalled Racela.
One thing that stands out in Racela's mind was veteran Jordan guard Sam Daghles, who he said had given the smaller backcourt of the Philippines fits in all those meetings.
"May malaki kasi silang point guard na si (Sam) Daghles. Eh at that time (in 2007) maliit lang point guard natin, si Jimmy (Alapag)," said Racela, still a member of Reyes' Gilas staff.
Daghles, now 33, is once again expected to lead Jordan's campaign in Manila, and he should once again be tough to handle for current Gilas guards LA Tenorio, Jason Castro, and Alapag.
But the difference now, Racela said, is that Gilas has bigger guards like do-it-all Gabe Norwood to throw at Daghles in crucial situations.
“Looking forward, different na ang teams noon sa ngayon. Tingin ko naman mas familiar na tayo sa kanila (Jordanians), though di rin naman natin sinasabing madali ang brackets A and B pero mas may chance tayo to finish at No. 1 or 2 para maiwasan muna natin ang Iran at China,” Racela said.
Gilas isn't too concerned with both Saudi Arabia or Chinese-Taipei, which the Philippines has beaten in their last three meetings.
Jordan, no doubt, will be Gilas' main problem in the group stage.
The Jordanians beat the Reyes-mentored Philippine team, 84-76, during their make-or-break first-round encounter in Group A during the 2007 Fiba-Asia cagefest in Tokushima, Japan. The Philippines went on to finish ninth place in the tournament.
In the 2009 Fiba-Asia edition, the Philippines, mentored by Yeng Guiao, collided once more with Jordan in the quarterfinal round, where it suffered a 70-81 loss. The national squad, then known as Powerade Team Pilipinas, wound up eighth overall.
And finally, in the 2011 Fiba-Asia championships in Wuhan, China, the Nationals of Rajko Toroman, beat Jordan, 72-64 during the second round, but they dropped the all-important semifinal matchup, 61-75.
The loss denied the Filipinos of a chance to advance to the gold medal round. Gilas eventually finished fourth after dropping a 68-70 heartbreaking loss to South Korea.