MANILA, Philippines Despite the series of health issues that hounded Gilas Pilipinas during its first month of training, former Philippine men’s coach Rajko Toroman insists the Filipinos are capable of winning the Fiba-Asia men’s championships in Changsa-Hunan, China next month.
The 60-year-old Toroman, who currently handles the Jordan national squad, said as long as Gilas gets its chemistry right, the Filipinos could realize their dream of returning to the Olympics for the first time since 1972.
“Of course, they (Gilas) are big contenders for the (Fiba-Asia) title, but that also depends from the roster,” Toroman said, when reached by gPhilstar.com for commenton Friday.
Toroman said he has kept himself abreast with what’s happening in Asia, particularly with Gilas, which he handled from 2008 to 2011.
The Serbian coach believes a Gilas side made up of youngLos Angeles Lakersguard Jordan Clarkson, a healthy and in-form naturalized big man Andray Blatche, along with the energetic plays of first-time national players Terrence Romeo and Calvin Abueva will make the Philippines a team to reckon with.
“If Clarkson will play and Blatche returns to the shape, it will be the strongest team in the FIBA Asia and the main favorites for the title,” declared Toroman, who guided Smart-Gilas to a semifinal stint in the 2011 Asian men’s basketball championships in Wuhan, China.
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Nonetheless, Toroman insists that even if the 6-foot-5 Clarkson fails to get the clearance to play from Fiba, Gilas will still be a solid team due to the confidence it draws from last year’s appearance in the World Cup in Seville, Spain.
“Even without Clarkson, they are still contenders. Why? They have the talent, they have the confidence after the world championships,” he said.
“All the games they played were very close, plus they have Blatche,” added Toroman.
“The new kids (in Gilas) are playing good in the Jones Cup, like Romeo and Abueva and with more experience players like Ranidel (De Ocampo), (Marc) Pingris and (Jayson) Castro, they are great team.”
Toroman hopes to test Gilas Pilipinas and possibly PBA teams when the Jordan national squad lands in Manila for a series of tuneup matches fromSept. 14-21.
The former Gilas national coach said the Manila leg will be the Jordanians’ last stop before plunging into action in the FIBA Asia cage joust where they are bracketed at Group C with powerhouse squads like host China and South Korea, along with Singapore.
“Our chances (of winning in Fiba-Asia) are not big,” he said.
“Our group is strong, but we will go to the next round. Yet, we are going to the next difficult group because on our side, seven teams are contenders for four spots and it will be difficult to reach the quarterfinals.”
The Jordanians will be leaning on the veteran leadership of playmaker Sam Daghlas and forward Zaid Abbas, who’ll be back in the team after skipping the 2013 Fiba-Asia edition in Manila.