Gilas-Pilipinas to play FIBA-Asia Group D member Kazakhstan in tuneup


MANILA -- Six days before the FIBA-Asia Championship officially begins, the Philippine men's national basketball team will be facing off with Group D member Kazakhstan in a tuneup match.

The July 26 game will be played at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.

The Filipinos will likewise battle a select PBA All-Star team on July 23 at the Mall of Asia Arena as part of their continued preparation for the FIBA World Cup qualifying joust.

According to national head coach Chot Reyes, the Manila-Cebu-Davao tour of the team will no longer push through.

The two Gilas tuneup games will be played after the July 12 deadline set by FIBA-Asia for the submission of the national teams' official lineup.

Kazakhstan, which will be coached by Italian mentor Matteo Boniciolli, is grouped together with India, Bahrain and Thailand in Group D. They were not part of the 2011 FIBA-Asia Championship in Wuhan.

The team will be parading naturalized point guard Jerry Johnson in the Manila meet.

"He is a player with big commitment and mentality, his enthusiasm could be a positive factor," described Boniciolli in an interview released through the FIBA website.

The 51-year-old coach sees the size of his squad as a major advantage -- the team is bannered by forward Anton Ponomarev.

"Kazakhstan has got potential, especially with big men. Anton Ponomaryov is 25 years old and stands 2.10m tall. He had a good season with Astana," revealed Boniciolli.

During the 2007 FIBA-Asia Championship, he had team-high averages of 17.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. While in the 2009 staging of the tournament, he finished third overall in the rebounding category with 9.6 boards per game -- only behind Iran's Hamed Haddadi and China's Yi Jianlian.

Other than Ponomarev, the coach also regards Mikhail Yevstigneyev and Alexander Zhigulin as 'interesting players'.

Boniciolli also said that his team will rely on defense to book their ticket to Spain 2014.

"We need to be the best defense at the FIBA Asia Championship. It will take physical shape, tactical rules and motivation, something that Kazakhstan players and their excellent work ethic can definitely bring. We don't hide the fact that we want to play the FIBA World Cup."

According to reports, Kazakhstan has started training in their coach's hometown in Trieste last June 15. They are expected to move to Slovenia to wrap up their preparations before heading to Manila.


Kali Quiñones Kali Quiñones Sports Desk Online Editor

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