Gilas all eyes on unpredictable Kazakhs

MANILA, Philippines — Coach Yeng Guiao and his troops would rather stick on deciphering Team Kazakhstan amidst report yesterday that moves were still being made to have Fil-Am NBA player Jordan Clarkson play for Team Phl in the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia.

The Nationals play the Kazakhs at 10 a.m. tomorrow at the GBK Basketball Hall in the Indonesian capital with Team Phl officials hopeful of Clarkson’s keenly awaited stint.

In fact, the Olympic Council of Asia has agreed to reinstate Clarkson in the Team Phl roster yesterday, delisting Don Trollano in the process.

The Nationals are focused on Team Kazakh, having spent quite a time watching videos of Kazakh games since arriving in Jakarta early Monday morning.

“The objective is to play Kazakhstan like we have played them many times already. We need to be familiar with how they play as if it’s not the first time we will play against them,” said Guiao.

Action in men’s basketball in the Jakarta meet got going yesterday with Chinese Taipei topping Japan, 71-65, in the opening match then Thailand pulling off an 87-86 squeaker over Mongolia.

Meanwhile, Iran and Syria have gained automatic entry into the knockout stage on the last-minute withdrawal of United Arab Emirates in Group B.

The Iranians and the Syrians merely fight for KO round seedings in their game at 10 a.m. on Aug. 25.

The Philippines was originally bunched with Iran, Syria and UAE but was later regrouped with China and Kazakhstan following the pullout of Palestine.

Team Phl and Kazakhstan are well familiar with each other since they have had a number of clashes, including in the Incheon Asiad where the Nationals topped Kazakhstan, 67-65, in a controversial match that saw the Filipinos shoot the ball in the enemy goal at endgame.

Ending up with a better quotient than the Philippines and Qatar in a three-way deadlock in their group, Kazakhstan advanced to the knockout round and went on to finish fourth.

Kazakhstan first competed in the Asiad in 1994 after the breakup of the Soviet Union. The Kazakhs finished fifth in 1994 in Hiroshima, fourth in Bangkok in 1998, third in Busan in 2002, seventh in Doha in 2006 then fourth in Incheon.

Though struggling as of late, the Kazakhs remain a dangerous team with their tall players with good touch from the outside.

Forwards Anton Ponomarev and Anatoliy Kolesnikov and shooting guard Rustam Yergali are the Kazakhs top guns all averaging in double figures in the WC qualifiers.

They dropped all three matches in the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup in Beirut then bounced back with an even 3-3 showing in the first round of the FIBA World Cup qualifiers. They swept Qatar in two games, split two matches with Iraq and dropped both games against Iran.

The Kazakhs and Gilas face off in the FIBAWC qualifiers on Nov. 30 in Almaty and on Feb. 24 in Manila.