FIBA World Cup

‘Underdog’ Angola still a huge challenge for Gilas Pilipinas in FIBA World Cup

Martin Mendoza

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‘Underdog’ Angola still a huge challenge for Gilas Pilipinas in FIBA World Cup

TOP PLAYER. Atlanta Hawks big man Bruno Fernando in action for Angola.

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Angola, led by Atlanta Hawks center Bruno Fernando, aims to reassert its mastery over Gilas Pilipinas in the group stage of the FIBA World Cup

MANILA, Philippines – Expect a thrilling, nip-and-tuck showdown between Gilas Pilipinas and Angola when the two well-matched teams duke it out in the FIBA World Cup at the Araneta Coliseum on Sunday, August 27.

With the 40th-ranked Philippines grouped with powerhouse countries such as Italy (No. 10) and Dominican Republic (No. 23), this upcoming battle against Angola (No. 41) is what many consider as a “winnable” game for the Jordan Clarkson-led Gilas Pilipinas in the group stage.

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Still, the Philippines should brace for an all-out war as the new-look Angola will be bringing out its big guns, including its lone NBA player in Atlanta Hawks center Bruno Fernando. 

Players to watch

Bruno Fernando

Drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers at 34th in the 2019 NBA Draft, Fernando – who was traded to the Hawks on draft night – had his best scoring season in the NBA during his rookie year, averaging 4.3 points on 51.8% shooting in 56 games played.

Fernando then had stops with the Boston Celtics and the Houston Rockets, before getting shipped back to the Hawks last season prior to the 2022-2023 trade deadline.

The 25-year-old Fernando has appeared in a total of 158 NBA games and has career averages of 3.4 points on 52.7% shooting and 3 rebounds in 9.5 minutes. 

Fernando, who stands at 6-foot-9, suited up for Angola thrice in the 2023 FIBA World Cup African Qualifiers, posting 11.3 markers, 6.3 boards, and 1.7 dimes per game. 

Unlike Dominican Republic’s stretch five Karl-Anthony Towns, Fernando is a high-flying big man who is adept at finishing off pick and rolls and off offensive boards, but is not much of a threat from beyond the arc. 

Childe Dundao

With Fernando playing just three games for Angola in the African Qualifers, it was 5-foot-6 point guard Childe Dundao who stood tall and showed the way for the Angolans en route to the World Cup.

Dundao, 25, averaged team highs of 12.1 points, 3.6 assists, and 3.3 steals to go along with 3.1 rebounds in 12 appearances in the African Qualifiers. 

After going unselected in the 2020 NBA Draft, the pesky, two-way floor general Dundao has been playing for Petro de Luanda in the Basketball Africa League since the 2020-2021 season and has been named to the BAL All-Defensive Team twice. 

Jilson Bango

Aside from Fernando and Dundao, another Angolan player that Gilas Pilipinas should keep an eye on is do-it-all big man Jilson Bango.

In nine games played for Angola in the African Qualifiers, the 6-foot-10 Bango averaged a near double-double of 9.7 points and 8.1 rebounds on a very efficient 62.7% clip from two-point area. 

The 24-year-old Bango was also Angola’s most efficient player in the African Qualifiers, averaging an impressive plus-minus of +14 per outing. 

Road to the World Cup

After suffering a 56-57 defeat at the hands of Ivory Coast in its African Qualifiers opener, Angola bounced back big with back-to-back wins over Guinea and Central African Republic to end the opening window with a 2-1 slate.

The Angolans then once again fell prey to the Ivorians in their fourth assignment, 73-75, before they swept the last eight games in the African Qualifiers to clinch the second spot in Group E and book their sixth consecutive ticket to the World Cup. 

History with Gilas Pilipinas

This highly anticipated matchup between Gilas Pilipinas and Angola on Sunday will be a rematch of their dramatic overtime duel in the 2019 World Cup in China, where the Angolans emerged triumphant over the Filipinos, 84-81.

With Angola ahead by 3 points and less than 40 seconds left in regulation, CJ Perez hit a long, cold-blooded triple for the Philippines to tie the game at 73-all. 

Perez then had a chance to win it all for Gilas Pilipinas in the final possession, but his three-point attempt from near half-court failed to hit the mark at the buzzer. 

In the extra period, with Angola once again on top by 3 points with just 7.7 seconds remaining, Gilas Pilipinas had a golden opportunity to send the game into double overtime, but Kiefer Ravena’s potential game-tying triple clanked off as the final buzzer expired. 

Valdelicio Joaquim, who no longer plays for Angola, led his team with 20 points, while former Gilas Pilipinas naturalized player Andray Blatche carried the fight for the Filipinos with a game-high 23 markers.

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