MANILA, Philippines – Former NBA champion Nick Young banners the Philippine club team vying for another title run in the Dubai Basketball International Championship starting Friday, January 27.
Despite fielding a “small team,” Strong Group-Philippines hopes to lean on the experience of their imports like Young when the team opens its campaign against the United Arab Emirates at 11 pm, Manila time.
“Nick is slowly getting there but his knee is a bit banged up,” said Strong Group coach Charles Tiu. “We are a small team, basically a college team with some imports, [going up] against pro teams. Let’s see how it goes.”
Young, who won an NBA championship with the Golden State Warriors, hopes to hold the fort for the squad, which missed the services of Ateneo big man Ange Kouame.
Kouame, coming off a successful UAAP title romp, got sidelined due to dengue, prompting the team to tap La Salle star forward Kevin Quiambao.
Ex-NBA player Shabazz Muhammad is also expected to step up along with veteran import Renaldo Balkman in the nine-day event.
“We’re looking forward to playing different international teams and we’re excited to showcase our talents for our fans in Dubai and we hope we can live up to their expectations and defend the crown that we came here for,” said Strong Group team owner Jacob Lao.
The Philippines, then represented by Mighty Sports, ruled the international club tournament in 2020 to become the first team outside Middle East to top the tourney.
Strong Group will also be leaning on its young guns led by Fil-Am guard Sedrick Barefield, Jerom Lastimosa, Will Gozum, Justine Baltazar, and JD Cagulangan.
Rounding out the crew are BJ Andrade, Francis Lopez, Migs Oczon, and Inand Fornillos.
After UAE, the Philippines will go up against club teams from Libya, Syria, and Lebanon. – Rappler.com
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