MANILA, JULY 28, 2007
(STAR) By Nelson Beltran - Mission Beijing gets under way for the SMC-Philippine team today when it plays Iran in Tokushima, Japan.

The Nationals go through eight games to realize their dream of gaining a Beijing Olympics stint next year, beginning with dangerous Iran on opening day of the 2007 FIBA-Asia men’s championship at the Tokushima Stadium.

Meanwhile, Eric Menk, Kelly Williams and Ren-Ren Ritualo complete the 12-man RP lineup that includes Asi Taulava, Mick Pennisi, Danny Seigle, Jimmy Alapag, Jayjay Helterbrand, Mark Caguioa, Dondon Hontiveros, Kerby Raymundo and Fil-Am Gabe Norwood.

The RP-Iran game is set at 5 p.m. (Manila time) and will be aired live on RPN-9 with BTV to telecast the match at 7 p.m.

The Philippines clobbered Iran, 89-79, in their Jones Cup contest earlier this month but the Iranians are setting out for their Tokushima rematch reinforced by 7-foot-5 giant Jaber Rouzbahani Darrehsari.

Other new names in the Iranian lineup are Mohammad Reza, Ali Baheran, Javad Davari and Mahdi Kamrany. But Darrehsari is coach Chot Reyes’ biggest worry.

A 260-pounder with an eight-foot wingspan, the Iranian behemoth can grab the rim flat-footed and can dunk tipping only his toes. He attracted NBA scouts as he held Chinese superstar Yao Ming to only 15 points in the last FIBA-Asia Championship two years ago.

Iran has two other seven-footers in Hamed Ehadadi and Moosa Nabippor and other big men in Ali Doraghi, Hame Sohrabnajed, Oshin Sahakian, Pooya Tadjik and Adin Bahrami who all stand 6-foot-8 and above.

The Nationals, as in their Jones Cup duel, are likely to work on a fluid-motion game and try to use outside artillery against the Iranians.

The Philippines and Iran also figured in a three-quarter, tune-up game in Tehran during a break of the recent Champions Cup.

“We’re mauled in our tune-up game and I’m sure they’re not intimidated by our team ,” said coach Chot Reyes of the Iranians, bronze medalists in the 2006 Doha Asian Games.

“It’s anybody’s game in Tokushima,” said coach Rajko Toroman after his boys were beaten by the Filipinos in the Jones Cup.

Toroman, a Serbian, said he was impressed by the Nationals in the contest but lambasted the referees for what he felt a very poor officiating.

Finding themselves in a tough bracket, the Nationals are in must-win situation in all their games in the FIBA-Asia prelims.

They play defending champion China Monday and Jordan Tuesday.

Jordan is composed of Islam Abbaas, Zaid Abbaas, Zaid Al-Sous, Mousa Alawadi, Fadel Kamal Abdelrahman, Mousa Salah Bashir, Isa Beida Kamel, Osama Daghles, Ayman Idais, Enver Soobzokov and naturalized player Rasheim Ali Abd Wright.

The Chinese, meanwhile, are to get their final 12 from their pool made up of Qiang Bian, Chen Chen, Lei Chen, Liye Gu, Shuo Han, Ke Li, Bo Wang, Yong Wang, Qian Wu, Chao Yang, Ming Yang, Li Yi, Kai Zhang, Qingpeng Zhang and Songtao Zhang. The Chinese have a height average of 6-foot-8.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved