FIBA-ASIA MEN'S:  U.S.  PUTS  RP  TO  THE  TEST  IN  JONES  CUP  OPENER,  JULY 2

MANILA, JUNE 26, 2007
(STAR) - In what would serve as its penultimate test before it flies to Tokushima for the FIBA-Asia Men’s Championship late next month, San Miguel-Pilipinas takes on world power United States on July 2 when the William Jones Cup unfolds in Chinese-Taipei.

The Nationals next face Lebanon on July 3, Japan on the 4th, South Korea on the 5th, Jordan on the 6th, Iran on the 7th, Chinese-Taipei on the 8th, Qatar on the 9th, and Kazakhstan on the 10th, drawing to near close extensive preparations in the country’s bid to send a basketball team to the Olympic Games for the first time since 1972 in Munich.

“Tough, no matter how it plays out,” said national coach Chot Reyes.

“But I would have preferred USA later. Otherwise, it’s fine.”

A four-nation Manila Invitational, which would feature Syria, Lebanon, China and the Philippines, is scheduled for the national team after the Jones Cup.

Meanwhile, Ginebra’s Eric Menk, Purefoods’ James Yap and Sta. Lucia Realty’s Kelly Williams, along with Air21’s Nino Canaleta, yesterday attended for the first time the SMC-RP practice at the Moro Lorenzo Sports Center, and all expressed thrill at having been invited to the training.

Menk, a member of the RP team that came within a heartbeat of advancing to gold medal play in the Asian Games in Busan five years ago, said he was excited to report for practice.

“But not to be with Asi (Taulava),” Menk, said in jest.

Taulava, who was within earshot, responded while tinkering with his laptop: “Don’t believe what he said. He loves me.”

Menk, who admitted he would’ve wanted to be with the team from the beginning, said he has no expectations about his inclusion now.

“Coach didn’t guarantee me anything. I’m just happy to be here. I hope to play hard as I can in the Jones Cup, be a team player and help the team as much as I can.”

Yap insisted he felt no rancor when he wasn’t originally selected.

“I respect the decision of the coaches. They know who should be in the team,” said Yap, the 2006 PBA most valuable player.

But the call to attend RP team prompted him to reset a scheduled vacation, including a planned trip with his wife Kris to celebrate their wedding anniversary next month.

Williams said sharing the same playing court with the rest of the national players gave him a natural high.

“It felt good just to be able to jump in and see these guys,” Williams said.

Equally important, Williams said, was the chance to talk to Reyes and clear up things that came out in the papers recently.

“I’m glad to be able to talk to coach Chot. He told me everything is water under the under bridge now. So everything’s fine, except for this protein drink, which tastes funny. This one I’m not too crazy about.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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