Asian basketball

Howard, Roberson flash NBA caliber as Strong Group off to promising Dubai start

Delfin Dioquino

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Howard, Roberson flash NBA caliber as Strong Group off to promising Dubai start

MAJOR IMPACT. Dwight Howard debuts for Philippine club team Strong Group in Dubai.


Former NBA veterans Dwight Howard and Andre Roberson guide Strong Group Athletics to a triumphant start in the Dubai International Basketball Championship

MANILA, Philippines – Only a couple of years removed from the NBA, Dwight Howard and Andre Roberson proved they have more to show.

The two former NBA veterans guided Strong Group Athletics to a triumphant start in the Dubai International Basketball Championship and starred in an 82-66 win over host United Arab Emirates on Friday, January 19.

A defensive linchpin who spent his best NBA years with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Roberson put up 15 points, 16 rebounds, and 3 blocks off the bench as the Philippine representatives gained a share of an early lead in Group B.

Meanwhile, Howard – a three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year and five-time All-NBA First Team member – tallied 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 steals in just under 20 minutes.

The Philippines’ local talent also shone, with reigning UAAP MVP Kevin Quiambao delivering 13 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists, including a bunch of timely hits in the third quarter that allowed Strong Group to pull away.

Strong Group held to a slim 46-40 lead at halftime before Quiambao went on a scoring blitz, scattering 8 points in a 10-0 start to the third period for a commanding 56-40 advantage.

Quiambao, who recently led La Salle to the UAAP title, capped that stretch with back-to-back treys – a promising indication that he can play as winger in the international level instead of being an undersized power forward.

That lead grew to its biggest at 72-51 off an Allen Liwag short stab with seven minutes left as Strong Group enjoyed a warm reception, with Dubai-based Filipinos packing the Al Nasr Club.

Jordan Heading chimed in 8 points and 5 rebounds in the win, while Justine Baltazar added 4 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals.

All but one of the 12 Strong Group players scored as former Gilas Pilipinas naturalized player Andray Blatche laid a goose egg in 23 minutes of action.

Blatche missed all of his 10 field goals, including seven from beyond the arc, and muffed a pair of free throws, although he recorded 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, and 1 block.

Hamid Abdullateef fired 19 points with 2 blocks as the top performer for the UAE national team.

Playing three consecutive games in as many days, Strong Group battles Syrian club Al Wahda on Saturday, January 20.

The Scores

Strong Group 82 – Roberson 15, Howard, 14, Quiambao 13, Moore 11, Heading 8, Ynot 5, Baltazar 4, Sanchez 4, Liwag 4, Cagulangan 2, Escandor 2, Blatche 0. 

UAE 66 – Abdullateef 19, Dickerson 13, Alameeri 12, Alshabibi 12, Alsawan 4, Ashour 3, Mbaye 2, Hussein 1, Ayman 0, Al Nuaimi 0, Ahmad 0. 

Quarters: 22-22, 46-40, 64-49, 82-66.


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Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.