Control emotions, Yeng Guiao reminds Gilas

MANILA, Philippines — Gilas head coach Yeng Guiao is known as an outspoken firebrand with a long list of donations to the PBA Players Trust Fund because of repeated technical fouls but in the Asian Games, he’s careful not to cross the line. In the international game, a coach is ejected on two technical fouls or one direct technical and two indirect technicals from others on the bench or three indirect technicals from others on the bench. A technical foul results in one free throw and possession.

Assistant coach and chief scout Ryan Gregorio said yesterday Guiao even reminded his players to keep their emotions in check during Gilas’ debut against Kazakhstan at the Gelora Bung Karno Basketball Hall in Jakarta last Thursday. Twice, the Philippines was called for unsportsmanlike fouls resulting in two free throws and possession. Chris Tiu was whistled in the second period while James Yap was called for making contact on a breakaway in the first minute of the third quarter. When an offensive player is fouled with no defender between him and the goal, it is automatically an unsportsmanlike foul even if the contact may only be slight.

“Coach Yeng was happy with the way we defended and followed our defensive game plan,” said Gregorio. “He was happy the way our offense was executed. We played with a good flow. He just kept on reminding the players that we must keep our emotions in check at all times.” The memory of the Gilas brawl with Australia in the FIBA Asia/Pacific World Cup Qualifiers last July was obviously in the back of Guiao’s mind.

Gregorio, now retired from coaching to work as a Meralco executive but persuaded to make a comeback to answer a call to duty for the country, said there were three keys to trouncing Kazakhstan, 96-59.

“First, we did a good job of limiting No. 10, Rustam Murzagaliyev, their best point guard, to zero,” he said. “That was a big key for us. We defended the three-ball really well and forced them to shoot blanks.” Murzagaliyev shot 46.9 percent from beyond the arc in six games of the first three windows of the FIBA Qualifiers so Guiao made sure he never had a good look. The Kazakh went 0-of-6 in 22:36 minutes, including 0-of-4 triples.

“Murzagaliyev likes to push the ball, is a super three-point shooter and will take the three in transition or spot up,” Gregorio said.

“But he has a hard time dealing with ball pressure, prefers to go right on penetration but isn’t quick enough to beat you off the dribble going left. He’s a high turnover point guard when pressured with weak lateral defense and his body isn’t strong enough for physicality.” Gregorio’s scouting report on Murzagaliyev showed the way to frustrate him into committing four fouls and made him a non-factor.

“Second, our ball-screen defense was so solid that we disrupted their rhythm and forced them into committing mistakes,” said Gregorio.

“Our big guys rotated well and played tough defense against the taller and heftier Kazakhs. Third, we got into a good flow on offense. As expected, Stanley (Pringle) was unguardable. James Yap was in form and Paul Lee put the finishing touches. The guys played with great chemistry and strong mental toughness. Credit to the coaching brilliance and leadership of coach Yeng.”

Gregorio said the coaching staff has four days to prepare for China. It will be a tough challenge to go up against China’s NBA players 7-2 Zhou Qi of the Houston Rockets and 6-7 Ding Yanyuhang of the Dallas Mavericks. China’s other big guns are 6-8 Abudushalamu Abudurexiti, 6-2 Sun Minghui and 7-0 Wang Zhelin.