Asian Games: Gilas Philippines’ pros of 2018 are very different to the ones who failed against China in 1990 Beijing Games
When the Philippines brought out their PBA stars for the first time in 1990, they were still no match for hosts. Can their modern team make the step up?
For the 1990 Asian Games in Beijing, the Philippines decided to send their professional players from the PBA for the first time.
The Gilas had won the first four editions of the Asian Games basketball competition and wanted to show Asia their true colours by sending in the pros. They were aiming at China, who were hosts and favourites for gold.
They met first in a quarter-final group match. And the Gilas were nowhere in sight as China romped to a 125-60 victory – a clear statement that, even with the pros, the Philippines were facing something they’ve never experienced before in their own league.
The format of the competition meant that China and the Philippines would meet again in the final. This time, the Gilas put up a stronger performance but were still no match for the Chinese, who won the gold medal with a 90-76 victory.
A similar scenario is playing out in Jakarta with China and the Philippines again meeting in a pool game. They face each on Tuesday in a group D game with Philippines having already beaten Kazakhstan and China playing their opening game of the three-team group.
For the Philippines, the setting is similar to 1990. But this time they are showcasing a new kind of professional – the kind that has NBA and US college basketball experience.
The Cleveland Cavaliers’ Jordan Clarkson and Stanley Pringle are the stars but they are backed by a strong squad of players such as veterans James Yap and 45-year-old Asi Taulava.
San Miguel Beermen rookie Christian Standhardinger scored 15 points in their opening 96-59 victory over Kazakhstan while Gabe Norwood scored seven. Pringle led the scoring with 18 with Yap hitting 12.
China also boast NBA experience, though Houston Rockets centre Zhou Qi and Dallas Mavericks forward Ding Yanyuhang, although the latter is yet to start a regular season game for his team.
The Chinese remain the favourites and Philippines coach Yeng Guiao is refusing to look at the game as anything more than a means to an easier path to the final once they reach the play-off stages.
China will also remember that they were beaten by the Philippines at the Fiba Asia Cup in Lebanon just over a year ago.
“It’s going to be totally different [against China],” Guiao told journalists. “The game plan against Kazakhstan was to disrupt its offence and prepare for its three-point shooting.
“Against China, you cannot trap them because their offence is concentrated more inside, anchored on their big players. We have to play man-to-man most of the time. They will be difficult to stop.”
Assistant coach Ryan Gregorio identified Zhou, 2.03-metre Abudushalamu Abudurexiti and 2.13-metre Wang Zhelin as dangers, along with Ding.
“China is bringing their best team in the Asian Games. They are solid on all fronts specially their frontline,” Gregorio was quoted as saying.
“Abudushalamu has a body of a power forward with the quickness of a guard. Zhou Qi is a seven-foot-one NBA player. He’s tall and quick. He has a range thar can extend to the three-point range.
“He has great anticipation skills on defence. Wang Zhelin is a seven-feet centre. He is quick on his feet and has a polished inside moves. He is hard to stop inside the paint.
“Ding is an NBA player. Small forward. Quick and strong. Has long range. We are banking on our quickness. We lacked the height and length but we can compensate with our quickness and intelligence.”