DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Team Mighty Sports-Philippines targets a winning start even as it kicks off its campaign against an unfamiliar foe in the 30th Dubai International Basketball Championships.
Bannered by former Los Angeles Lakers star Lamar Odom, Mighty Sports takes on fellow Group A member American University on Friday, February 1 at 7 pm (11 pm, Manila time) at the Shabab Al Ahli Club.
“I am expecting nothing less than a tough grind,” said Mighty Sports coach Charles Tiu. “Every game here is important so we have to keep our collective focus on the task at hand. How we will perform in the first game will set the tone for our campaign.”
With the addition of Odom and two other American reinforcements, Mighty Sports looks to redeem itself from a forgettable debut two years ago when it only had one victory to show in 8 matches.
“The team is improving and even the locals are doing okay,” Tiu said of Mighty Sports, which pulled off a pulsating 98-97 win over Magnolia in a tune-up game last Tuesday.
Resident Barangay Ginebra import Justin Brownlee is determined to showcase his scoring prowess on his second tour of duty with the club, while Chinese league veteran Randolph Morris is expected to provide enough presence in the lane.
University of the Philippines standout Juan Gomez de Liaño may just gain a share of the spotlight, while ABL veteran playmaker Jason Brickman is also excited to repeat his solid showing that helped Mighty Sports clinch the Jones Cup title via an eight-game sweep back in 2016.
Touted Fil-Am recruits Jeremiah Gray and Roosevelt Adams are sure to strut their wares while former pros Joseph Yeo, TY Tang and ex-Gin King stalwart Jett Manuel are determined to make their presence felt too.
Collegiate standouts Santi Santillan of La Salle, St. Benilde’s Justin Gutang and National University’s Troy Rike can also provide ample contributions together with amateur league star Gab Banal.
Former national team mentor and multi-titled PBA tactician Jong Uichico will serve as Tiu’s deputy along with former Xavier star Woody Co and Ateneo’s Dean Castano, with Edrick Ferrer serving as assistant team manager.
“We barely have any scouting report on who we will be facing right on the opening day, but I am optimistic that we are more than ready to do well to make our kababayans here proud,” said Mighty Sports team owner Alex Wongchuking.
After the opening game, Mighty Sports will barely have 24 hours to recharge and recover as it takes on the national team of host United Arab Emirates on Saturday, also at 7 pm.
It squares off with formidable Homenetmen-Lebanon on Sunday at 9 pm, before the Philippine-based squad finally gets a breather on Monday.
Mighty Sports closes out its preliminary round campaign in Group A against Al Wahda-Syria on Tuesday at 9 pm.
Pooled in Group B are Al Riyadi-Lebanon, Sports Club Beirut-Lebanon, Sala-Morocco, Al Nift-Iraq and the Jordan national team.
The 10 protagonists of the club tournament are divided into two groups and will figure in a single-round preliminaries. Only the top 4 teams from each side will advance to the knockout stages, starting with the crossover quarterfinals on Thursday, February 7.
The winners of those pairings will make it to the semis on Friday and the two survivors will figure in a winner-take-all showdown on the final day on Saturday, February 9. – Rappler.com