MANILA, JULY 11, 2007
(STAR) By Nelson Beltran - The SMC-Philippine quintet got another grim reminder of what awaits the team in the Tokushima Olympic qualifier as the Nationals fell to a 90-107 ambush by Kazakhstan at the close of the 29th William Jones Cup at the Hsinchuang Stadium here last night.

The Nationals came out flat and were pounded by Kazakhstan, blowing a chance for a second-place finish in the nine-day, 10-nation tourney. (Related story below this news by Joaquin Henson)

The RP squad wound up with a 5-4 win-loss record and secured third place after Korea upended Chinese-Taipei, 82-59, in the final match.

The Nationals figured in a five-way tie with the host, Iran, United States and Korea but took third place on superior quotient. Jordan won the championship followed by Lebanon.

The loss so infuriated RP team coach Chot Reyes that he went straight to their vehicle after the game, doing away with the usual post-game huddle with his charges.

“I saw it coming since the second half of yesterday’s game against Qatar. I tried to remedy the situation by practicing early this morning,” said Reyes.

“Kazakhstan is a good team. We’ve had a bad record against them. I don’t mind losing to them but not this way. This is unacceptable,” added Reyes, feeling his players hardly put up an effort against the Kazakhs.

The Philippines is now 0-4 against Kazakhstan since the Busan Asian Games. The Nationals lost the battle for the bronze medal to the Kazakhs in the 2002 Asiad and also bowed to the same team in the 2005 Jones Cup and in the recent Champions Cup in Iran.

“Going to Tokushima, we’ll be praying that we do not cross paths with them. That’s the effect of this game. In our mind, we can’t beat them, that’s why I’m so disappointed,” said Reyes.

Kazakh coach Alexey Veropkin, meanwhile, said they prepared a special package against the Philippines. “We made a special preparation for this game. We started out Yegor Biryulin and Gavrilov Dimitriy just for them and our game plan worked perfectly,” said Veropkin.

The tall Kazakh team pounded RP squad from inside and out, going 16-of-44 from the three-point area.

And not even injuries to Biryulin, Dimitriy and Shpekht Andrey could stop the Kazakhs in demolishingthe Filipinos, going for the kill on a 13-2 opening run in the final quarter.

Anton Ponomarev fired three treys in that lethal assault, breaking the game open at 89-74.

A team which thrived on outside shooting, the Nationals were cold from the outside last night, converting only nine of 36 three-point tries.

James Yap had gone 1-of-2 from the three-point land when he suffered a sprained left ankle on a bad fall with 5:01 left in the second quarter.

Asi Taulava getting into foul-trouble situation early also took its toll on the team.

Jordan was beaten by Japan, 101-102, but still won the championship with a 7-2 record.

NOTES: Coach Chot Reyes said the Nationals would be confined to their hotel rooms until their departure for Manila today because of the disappointing loss to Kazakhstan. “No one will be allowed to go out, no one will be allowed to accept visitors. Lights out at 10,” said Reyes… Sixteen days before the FIBA-Asia Olympic qualifier, Fil-Am player Gabe Norwood has yet to get the needed documents that will clear him to play for the Japan joust.... Kelly Williams has long been cleared by the Bureau of Immigration and the Department of Justice as a legitimate Filipino but has yet to hold a Philippine passport…. “With the BI and DOJ documents, I don’t see any problem Kelly acquiring the Philippine passport,” said Reyes.

Jordan to block RP Five’s bid SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson Wednesday, July 11, 2007

If the Philippines hopes to advance to the quarterfinals of the FIBA-Asia Olympic qualifiers in Tokushima, newly-crowned Jones Cup champion Jordan must be eliminated as a stumbling block.

The Philippines, Jordan, Iran and China are bracketed in what national coach Chot Reyes calls “The Group of Death” in the first round of eliminations. Two of the four teams will move up to the quarterfinals after three days of games. The other two will be relegated to the consolation pool for ranking purposes.

First on tap for the Philippines is Iran on July 28. Then, Reyes’ charges face China the next day and on July 30, it’ll be Jordan.

China is sending a mixed bag of veterans and newcomers coached by ex-national cager Adijian Chang Bin to Tokushima. Local fans will get a chance to size up the squad during the Manila Invitationals starting tomorrow at the San Juan Arena.

China, Syria, Lebanon and the Philippines are squaring off in the four-team pocket tournament that serves as a prelude to Tokushima. Tomorrow’s and Saturday’s contests will be held at the Arena while the Friday and Sunday contests will precede the PBA Fiesta Conference Finals at the Big Dome.

Reyes says Jordan has “upgraded” its lineup with naturalized cager Rasheim Wright, a 6-3 guard who played as an import in Lebanon the last two years. Wright, 26, scored nearly 1,200 points in only two seasons for District of Columbia, an NCAA Division II school. The other key addition is Portuguese coach Mario Palma who called the shots for the Angola national squad in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics. Palma’s coaching staff is made up of two more imports, Mario Gomes and Zoran Dokic.

Under FIBA rules, each country is allowed to recruit one naturalized player with no residency requirement. In the previous rules, a country could use two naturalized players with a three-year FIBA prior notice.

The Philippines fielded two naturalized players, Jeff Moore and Dennis Still, in the 1985 FIBA-Asia (then known as the Asian Basketball Confederation) Championships under the old FIBA rules. Coach Ron Jacobs piloted the national team to the title, the Philippines’ last in the biennial tournament.

Other Asian countries with naturalized players are Japan (Eric McArthur) and Lebanon (Joe Vogel).

Foreign-born players who trace their roots to a particular Asian country are allowed to suit up with no limit. This is how Lebanon can play Brian Beshara of Louisiana State University and Paul Afeaki of the University of Utah with Vogel. Beshara and Afeaki claim Lebanese lineage. This is also why the Philippines is permitted to play Fil-foreigners like Danny Seigle, Mick Pennisi, Asi Taulava, Kelly Williams and Gabe Norwood.

Jordan has never qualified for the semifinals in a FIBA-Asia tournament but in the last Asian Games, finished fourth behind China, Qatar and Iran.

With Wright’s arrival, Jordan has suddenly gained a reputation as a title contender. Palma is eyeing no less than an Olympic slot in Beijing. So is Wright who said “it’s a wonderful opportunity … never in a million years, would I have ever dreamed that I would be playing ball internationally, let alone have the opportunity to be on another country’s national team.”

For Wright, playing for Jordan opens the door for an Olympic appearance – something that wouldn’t be possible with his mother country. Wright, who is Muslim, promised Jordanian fans he won’t let them down. “We will do it this summer,” said Wright.

Clearly, Wright is no Michael Jordan but for Jordan, he’s Mr. Right.

Jordan beat the Philippines, 74-70, in the recent Jones Cup but Wright was hardly a factor, scoring only eight points. Did Palma hold Wright back? Or was that all he could show?

Palma unleashed two new Jordan recruits, 6-10 Jamal Almaaytah and 6-9 Ayman Idais, on the Philippines and they were frightening. Jamal wound up with 18 points and Ayman, 15. Neither played for Jordan in the last FIBA-Asia Championships, raising doubts as to their origins. Jamal is 26 and Ayman, 29, so they’re no spring chickens. Where did they come from?

In the last Asian Games, Jordan’s main weapons were 6-8 Zaid Alkhas, 6-7 Islam Abbas, 6-4 Fadel Al Najjar and 6-4 Enver Soobzakov. Zaid hit 27 points and Abbas netted 12 in Jordan ’s 86-58 loss to China in the semifinals. There were no signs of Jamal or Ayman in that contest.

Another Jordanian cager to watch is 6-5 Sam Daghlas, an NBDL veteran who played at Midwestern State. It has been reported that Jordan might enlist 7-foot center Dshmal Schotz, renamed Maitah, for additional ceiling in Tokushima. Dshmal is supposedly half Jordanian.

Jordan won’t be the only nut the Philippines must crack in the “Group of Death,” assuming China is untouchable. Iran looms as another obstacle.

In the Jones Cup, Iran didn’t play 7-3 center Jaber Rouzbahani who’s only 21. The Philippines rode on hot three-point shooting to down the Asian Games bronze medalist, 89-79.

Iran’s offense is anchored on the Bahrami brothers, 6-6 Samad (who was the Asian Games leading scorer) and 6-7 Aidin. They combined for 38 points against the Philippines in the Jones Cup.

Iran ’s heft and height are critical factors. Eight of coach Rajko Toroman’s players are 6-6 and over with 7-1 Hamed Ehadadi the tallest. For the Philippines to repulse Iran in Tokushima, Reyes’ perimeter gunners must be on target because it’ll be extremely difficult to score close to the basket.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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