THE Middle East countries led by former two-time Asian champion Iran stands as the biggest stumbling blocks in the country’s title bid in the Fiba-Asia Men’s Basketball Championship to be held in Manila later in the year.
Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes has Iran high on his list along with Jordan, Qatar, and Lebanon as the likely threats to the Nationals hope to put up a good showing before home fans.
The Iranians for one, have the heft and size to dominate the August 1-11 tournament, where the top three teams earn slots to the 2014 FIBA-World Championships in Spain.
Samad Bahrami, who starred in Iran’s title-clinching victory in the 4th Fiba-Asia Cup last year, leads the veteran-laden team along with gunner Hamed Afagh, Asghar Kardoust, and possibly Hamed Haddadi of the Memphis Grizzlies.
But at the same time, Reyes said a cause of concern would be Lebanon, which early this month, fielded three club teams in the Dubai Invitational Basketball Tournament where the Nationals competed.
Sagesse, one of three Lebanon squads in the meet, dealt Gilas Pilipinas a 95-65 beating to end its hopes of making the finals.
Reinforced by PBA players Jay-R Reyes, Ronjay Buenafe, and KG Canaleta, the Nationals ended up in sixth out of eight teams.
“Nung galing kaming Dubai, Lebanon had three club teams with three imports,” recounted Reyes.
“At this point, they have three or four naturalized players. Sila mamimili na lang … They have the 7-foot-2 Loren Woods and Jarrid Famous. Marami silang naturalized, kaya di lang sila malakas, super-lakas,” he added.
The former Talk ‘N Text mentor noted Lebanon is now on its second stage of preparation for the Fiba-Asia meet, which only goes to show how serious it is to crowd Iran, Jordan, and even defending champion China for basketball supremacy in the region.
“Iyung Lebanon, they went to Dubai and then pag-balik, they’re going to the second round of competition. From March 1, concentrate na sila sa national team,” said Reyes.
“Kaya Iran, Lebanon, Qatar, at Jordan ang top four sa Middle East, then sa East Asia, China, Japan at South Korea.”