Source : June Navarro Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA—Aside from Qatar and Jordan, Lebanon might come over to the mini training camp put up by Smart Gilas Pilipinas for its final push to the Fiba Asia Championship.
National coach Rajko Toroman said negotiations are still ongoing with Lebanon team officials while the arrival of Qatar and Jordan to play a series of friendlies on Sept. 8 to 11 has already been cast in stone.
Toroman said Lebanon’s participation would allow Smart Gilas to catch a preview of one of the toughest contenders in the Asian championship in Wuhan, China on September 15 to 25.
Lebanon has naturalized former NBA pivotman Loren Woods, a 7-foot-2 beanpole acquired to match the length of defending champion Iran’s Hamed Haddadi (7-2) and China’s Wang Zhizhi (7-1).
Toroman pointed out these tuneup games are vital since Talk ‘N Text stars Jim my Alapag and Kelly Williams haven’t joined the scrimmages of the team yet.
Smart Gilas assistant coach Jude Roque said Alapag and Williams are expected to join them on Sept. 3 or 10, days before the team leaves for the Asian championship, which stakes a continental slot to the 2012 London Olympics.
Alapag and Williams are vacationing in the US after the Tropang Texters flubbed their Grand Slam bid against the Petron Blaze Boosters in the PBA Governors Cup finals.
Roque said naturalized center Marcus Douthit was supposed to arrive today but all East Coast flights were canceled due to Hurricane Irene.
The 6-foot-10 Douthit left for the US after Smart Gilas finished third in the William Jones Cup in Taipei two weeks ago.
Forward Ranidel De Ocampo, another TNT mainstay, showed up Monday night in practice, a day after JV Casio, Mark Barroca, Mac Baracael, Chris Lutz, Marcio Lassiter, Dylan Ababou and Jason Ballesteros were chosen in the first round of the PBA Rookie Draft.
Without the TNT players, the Nationals begged off from the pocket tournament in Doha, Qatar last week, which includes Lebanon, Syria and the host country.
The Philippines is bracketed in Group D with China, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in the opening round of the Asian championship and would most likely meet Japan, Jordan and Syria in the second round.
Team captain Chris Tiu didn’t participate in the freshman lottery while forward Japeth Aguilar, who has a live contract with TNT, declared he would continue playing for the national team as long as Toroman stays at the helm.
The top management of Smart Gilas has decided to extend the program until the 2013 Fiba Asia Championship where three continental spots to the Fiba worlds in Spain are offered.
ADDED NEWS : Sports analyst Ronnie Nathanielz has just tweeted that Marcus Douthit, Greg Slaughter, Kiefer Ravena to banner Philippine team to SEA Games in Indonesia this November.