MANILA, Philippines – Former Golden State guard Nick Young and naturalized player Ange Kouame beef up Strong Group-Philippines in the Dubai International Championship this January.
Ex-PBA import Renaldo Balkman and Fil-Am Sedrick Barefield also reinforce the squad in the international club tournament which the Philippines, then represented by Mighty Sports, ruled in 2020.
Coach Charles Tiu – who called the shots in the title run that made the Philippines the first team outside Middle East to top the tourney – looks forward to another winning romp.
Tiu expects Young, who won an NBA championship with the Warriors in 2018, to provide leadership along with Balkman, another former NBA player.
Young, an 11-year NBA guard who also suited up for the Los Angeles Lakers, is expected to arrive in the Philippines a couple of weeks before the January 27-February 5 tournament.
Also known by his nickname “Swaggy P,” the 37-year-old Young last played for the Denver Nuggets in 2018.
The 38-year-old Balkman, meanwhile, is no stranger to Dubai’s annual cagefest having played a key role in Mighty Sports’ title run. He’s also a many-time member of the Puerto Rican national team.
“I’ve had two championships with [Balkman], and I want to try to keep rolling,” said Tiu of the former PBA import. “He says he’s been in shape and is very eager to come back to the Philippines to come finish his legacy here.”
Team manager Jacob Lao said they’re also lucky to have Kouame on board just weeks after the Gilas Pilipinas naturalized player powered the Ateneo Blue Eagles to the UAAP championship and bagged the Finals MVP.
“We are very thankful to Gilas and the SBP (Samahang Basketball ng Pilipinas) for allowing us to borrow Ange in this tournament,” said the 22-year-old Lao. “He’s my teammate and we just won in Ateneo, and hopefully we can win one more together.”
Aside from Kouame, Tiu also expects Barefield to provide youthful energy as the Fil-Am guard, who went undrafted in the in the 2019 NBA Draft, impresses with his versatility.
“I’ve actually been trying to get Barefield on my teams in the past and it just hasn’t worked out due to the timing, among others,” said Tiu, who recently guided College of St. Benilde back to the NCAA finals for the first time in two decades.
“But I’m really excited to have him right now. Our Filipino fans will see just how good this guy is.” – Rappler.com