RP team sees very tough competition in Fiba-Champions Cup

May 6, 2009 3:11 am 

MANILA, May 5 –The SMART GILAS PILIPINAS national team sees the semifinal as its modest goal when it sees action in the Fiba-Asia Champions Cup in Jakarta on May 12 to 20.

"Don't expect a miracle in Jakarta," said national team coach Rajko Toroman. "But we have a very strong and enthusiastic team. We're very competitive. We hope we'll go in the semifinals."

The Smart Gilas team, reinforced by former Los Angeles Lakers player CJ Giles, has been bracketed in the so-called Group of Death with defending champion Iran, Lebanon, Kuwait and South Korea in Group A.

Group B is made up of Qatar, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, India and Indonesia.

"This is a very, very tough competition for our young team," said Toroman during the PSA Forum Tuesday at Shakey's UN Avenue. "This is the reason why we invited CJ in that competition because our team is so young and without national experience. And we're playing strong competition."

Giles, a 23-year-old center who played five games for the Lakers as a rookie last season, recently arrived with the team bannered by Chris Tiu, Dylan Ababou and Mark Barroca from a training camp in Las Vegas.

"I think one thing I can bring is energy," said the 6-foot-10 Giles, who also played with the Sioux Falls in the D-League, the NBA’s developmental league. "I'm not so much of a leader. But I like to do the little things and contribute to the team."

Japeth Aguilar, the former Ateneo standout who played for US NCAA Division I school West Kentucky University, joined the RP developmental team in Las Vegas but won't suit up in the Jakarta joust.

"He wants to come but he has has obligations," Toroman said during the weekly session sponsored by Pagcor, Accel and Outlast Battery.

"This is a long term program and we are taking the right steps, said Smart Gilas operations head Butch Antonio. "The past few months had been very productive. Compared to the team in January, we're getting better. We are a spunky team."

Team officials tabbed Iran, which played in the 2008 Beijing Olympics under Toroman of Serbia, as the team to beat along with Lebanon, Jordan and Qatar.

"Most teams are playing with two imports. The Iranian national team is coming with five players who played in the Olympics.

"They also have two ex-NBA players as imports," said Toroman. "But the most important thing is character. I told them never to quit. If they're better than us, show your character and fight to the end."

"This team is hungry and willing to learn new things," noted Giles.

"We are very competitive," added Toroman. "We have a future in this team." (PNA)LOR/pr

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