INCHEON, South Korea — Former Gilas Pilipinas coach Rajko Toroman said he sees a four-way fight for the gold medal among the Philippines, Iran, South Korea, and China in the basketball competitions of the 2014 Asian Games.
“Iran, China, Korea, and Philippines for me are the four best teams (in the Asian Games),” said Toroman in an interview with a handful of Filipino reporters inside the Athletes’ Village on Friday, hours before the opening ceremonies.
Toroman was spotted by Filipino media as Jordan’s building at the Athletes’ Village is just adjacent to the building where the Philippine delegation is housed and where Gilas Pilipinas will also be staying when they arrive on Saturday.
The Serbian coach also had a chat with Gilas Pilipinas team manager Aboy Castro, who is now in this city for the technical meeting at the Samsan World Gymnasium.
Toroman feels Gilas Pilipinas will have a bigger chance of winning the gold this year than four years ago when he coached the team to a sixth-place finish in the 2010 edition in Guangzhou, saying the confidence it gained in the last Fiba World Cup in Spain will go a long way in the Asiad.
“They have a big chance now. Just the confidence. Last 25 years, before the Filipinos want to put everything, size and height. But it’s not just that, it’s about the program, support of PBA, it’s about long preparation, it’s about international exposure,” said Toroman.
Toroman, though, said he still considers Iran the favorite for the gold medal.
“I think Iran is the strongest,” said Toroman of the Hamed Haddadi-led team that he led to the 2008 Olympics. Iran also played in the Fiba World Cup where it matched Gilas' one-win output.
“They won one game just like the Philippines and they played good against Serbia and France. They were very competitive. They didn’t change their players. The starting five in my starting five in 2007,” said Toroman of the Iranians.
After failing to win a medal in the Fiba-Asia Cup where its ‘Team B’ lost to Philippines in the battle for third place, China, Toroman said, should also contend for the gold medal with an overhauled lineup.
“They changed everything. They have players who are 22 and 25 but they are so athletic and big. They are very aggressive and very tall team. They are a very dangerous team,” said Toroman.
South Korea is also a strong team although Toroman said he hasn’t seen the host country play in the Fiba World Cup.
“I haven’t watch them in the world championship but they are very, very good,” Toroman said.
The Serbian coach said he doesn’t see any surprises from the other Asian Games teams, including his own Jordan side.
“Qatar is coming in with a new coach. Jordan is without its five best stars. Maybe Chinese Taipei, maybe Jordan but I think the four teams will be the biggest contenders for the championship,” said Toroman.