TEHRAN, MAY 19, 2007
(MALAYA) San Miguel-RP continued to work with enthusiasm on what was supposed to be a rest day Thursday in the 18th FIBA Asia Champions Cup.

The respite could have been a very welcome one for the Nationals, who would have used it to rest bodies aching and tired after playing for four straight days.

Instead, national coach Chot Reyes and his wards spent the better half of the morning straining in a practice game against the Iran national pool at the Azadi Stadium.

The Iranians, featuring a 7-foot-5 who is still a work in progress and two more able centers who stand no lower than 6-foot-10, came out ahead 63-47 of the three-quarter match.

But Reyes said his players gained more in terms of their continuous adjustments from their PBA style of play copied from the American NBA.

"In the US, it’s speed and quickness while in the international arena it’s more on size and physicality," he said.

"The physicality is the biggest adjustment to make. We’ve got to have the ability to handle hard contacts, unlike in the PBA where there’re no hand checks and a bump is a foul.

"In international play, you’ve got to defend against bone-jarring screens, get used to being constantly hit and be prepared for a veritable no-blood, no-foul rule."

Thus, Reyes added, the value of continuous play in the international arena. "It’s not the same kasi as kami-kami lang in practice. Nobody will give bone-jarring picks and hits, no matter how hard the practices are," he explained.

Most of the Nationals have seemingly gotten used to the idea. They were all upbeat in the game against the Iranians, but, per Reyes’ instructions, did not exert too much effort in fighting the screens and going after the usual known shooters.

Focus was almost entirely on perfecting the Nationals’ executions, which can also be used against Lebanon’s Blue Stars during the Champions Cup quarterfinals Friday.

A twist was even added to the physicality aspect by Asi Taulava, who was called for a dubious foul after being entangled with 6-foot-10 Ali Doraghi during a rebound play. When Doraghi tried to apologize while they were heading downcourt, Taulava yelled: "I don’t care!"

"I was just trying to get into his head. Now he’s scared of me," Taulava explained during a break in play.

RP faces tough task vs Lebanon BY NOLI CORTEZ (MALAYA)

TEHRAN. — San Miguel-RP takes on Blue Star of Lebanon Friday, with the Nationals aiming to continue their enriching learning experience in the 18th FIBA Asia Champions Cup at the Azadi Stadium here.

The match, set at 4:15 p.m. (8:45 p.m., Manila time), kicks off the quarterfinals of the tournament that has been a practical classroom for the Nationals who are gearing up for more important tournaments in the immediate future.

For the Nationals to continue facing and learning from the region’s top ballclubs, however, they must overcome the Lebanese who emerged from the three-team Group A eliminations unscathed.

"To me, they’re the second-best, if not the best, team here," said RP coach Chot Reyes. "We go into the game as underdogs, but you never know."

Tony dela Cruz won’t be able to play due to a severely sprained left ankle he sustained in the course of the Nationals’ 99-80 win over Bahrain’s Al Muharraq last Wednesday.

For the second straight game, the Nationals will face an opponent with no import of overwhelming size advantage, the Lebanese reinforcements being 6-foot-10 John Carter and 6-foot-6 William Pippen, said to be a relative of former NBA star Scottie Pippen.

Still, the two Americans have proven to be efficient and effective, especially when combining forces with Lebanon star national player El Fadi El Khatib. Their coach, Maz Trakh, is a former Talk N Text consultant and thus attuned to the style of play in the PBA where the Nationals have been culled from.

That’s why Reyes wants the game plan he hatched late Wednesday instilled into his players minds Thursday and drilled repeatedly during the Nationals’ Friday morning practice to be carried out to the letter.

"We’ve got to control the ball longer, but our emphasis will be on defense," Reyes said. "We’ve got to stop their transition game and disrupt their half-court offense. Grabe ang half-court executions nila."

A win over Lebanon will push the Nationals into Saturday’s semifinals while a loss will relegate them to the battle for fifth place.

Any finish will suit Reyes, just as long as his players continue benefiting from the stint that precedes next week’s SEABA tilt and July’s FIBA Asia championship.

"That’s why we’re here, to learn," he stressed.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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