Kazakhstan coach hopes for better result vs Gilas

Kazakhstan coach hopes for better result vs Gilas

Kazkahstan's Lithuanian head coach Renatas Kurilionokas during an interview with Philstar.com at the Mall of Asia Arena.Rick Olivares

MANILA, Philippines – Renatas Kurilionokas, coach of Kazakhstan’s men’s national basketball team, wishes he could lend some of his experience to his young Snow Leopards — the squad’s moniker.

The 29-year-Kurilionokas, a Lithuanian national, played for SK Fermista and Trakai in the European leagues where huge crowds were routine. He replaced Russian coach Mikhail Karpenko last June. And the Vilnius, Lithuania native knows that his Kazakhs face a hostile crowd and a national squad eager to cement its place into the next round of the Asian Qualifiers for the 2019 Fiba World Cup.

“For me, it is nothing new (having played in the Euroleagues), but for some of the players, it is a new experience,” said Kurilionokas on facing what will surely be a jam-packed Mall of Arena with a crowd egging the home side for a win Friday night.

“We have to just to stay positive and be mentally prepared for the game and hopefully, the game will be different.”

Kurilionokas was referring to the 96-59 blowout loss to the Philippines in the Asian Games, which the Snow Leopards have not forgotten.

“We made a few changes and I hope it will have an effect on the game,” added the coach during a lull in their final full practice before taking on Gilas Pilipinas.

The coach partially blamed scheduling and flight problems that affected the team prior to their Asian Games match with the Philippines. According to the Lithuainan, Kazakhstan arrived at 8 p.m. after a 12-hour flight, the night before their match against the Filipinos. The change in time zones and not being able to acclimatize themselves were factors in their loss.

This time around, the Kazakhs arrived two full days ahead of their match-up with the Philippines.

The question is: Will it be any different this time around in this crucial Asian Games Qualifier, with the Kazakhs at 3-5 and in fifth spot of Group F?

“Let’s see who is the better shooting team,” closed Kurilionokas during his team’s post-practice interview.