UICHICO:  RP  FIVE  CAN  MAKE  IT  TO  BEJING

MANILA, FEBRUARY 27, 2007
(STAR) By Nelson Beltran - Jong Uichico, the coach who came within seconds of sending the Philippine team to the Busan Asian Games final in 2002, believes coach Chot Reyes has formed a team that can go all the way to the Beijing Olympics next year.

"We have a good team with a balanced lineup that can really play different teams. It has a good chance to qualify for the Olympics," said Uichico, whose finals bid in Busan vanished in the air on a buzzer-beating three pointer by Korean sharpshooter Lee Sang Min.

Uichico gave his assessment using the recent Doha Asian Games as gauge. China beat host Qatar for the gold medal there.

"If the caliber of the competition is the same as in Doha, we’ll have a big chance. My worry is that some countries just used the Asian Games as training ground. They prepare harder for the FIBA-Asia championship, it being the qualifier for the Olympics and the World Champion-ship," said Uichico.

Outside China, the soft-spoken mentor pointed to the Arab teams as the squads that could well provide the Philippines tough challenge.

"I am more worried with Korea and Japan. They’ve been improving and it’s hard to scout them since we’re not familiar with their recruitment program," said Uichico.

The former RP mentor insisted Reyes’ team could fare well against the squads he has seen in action in the Doha Games.

"The Arabs find it hard to put up a strong inside defense because they have lean physique and Asi (Taulava) could handle their defense," said Uichico.

Uichico also insisted the squad composed of Taulava, Jimmy Alapag, Renren Ritualo, Mark Caguioa, Jayjay Helterbrand, Rudy Hatfield, Danny Seigle, Dondon Hontiveros, Kerby Raymundo, Tony dela Cruz, Mick Pennisi and Ranidel de Ocampo is a formidable team that can run, shoot and defend the perimeter.

"We have two able point guards in Helterbrand and Alapag, two guards in Hontiveros and Caguioa who can shoot and defend the perimeter. We have Seigle who can play 3 and 4, Raymundo and De Ocampo who can play 4 and 5. And with big guys Mick Pennisi and Asi Taulava, we can spread the floor on defense," said Uichico.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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