With a healthy roster and a new import, the all-amateur Smart-Gilas national team hopes to come up with a decent showing in the 32rd William R. Jones Cup as the Nationals depart for Taiwan Monday for the seven-nation tournament.
American reinforcement Marcus Douthit will make his international debut for the RP team after finally signing a contract.
His papers for naturalization are now being processed in order to play for the RP side in the 2011 FIBA-Asia Championship in Beirut, Lebanon, the qualifier for the 2012 London Olympics.
The 6-foot-11 Douthit is expected to plug the middle which has been the perennial problem of the RP team ever since.
Douthit first played for Smart-Gilas in the 1st Smart Philippine Invitational Championship which the Nationals ruled by beating the national team of Jordan.
Smart-Gilas head coach Rajko Toroman of Serbia said the tournament is very important for the Nationals as they battle the national teams of Iran, the reigning FIBA-Asia champion, Lebanon, Japan and host Taiwan.
“This is the first time we will play these teams,” said Toroman, who conducted his last practice session yesterday morning at the Ynares Sports Center in Pasig City.
“It’s very important, because we’ll see where we are in this moment,” added Toroman, who has been with the Nationals for almost two years now since signing as Project Director of Smart-Gilas, which task is to earn an Olympic berth in London in 2012.
Aside from Iran, Lebanon, Japan and Taiwan, the Philippines will also play an all-star team of Taiwan and the under-23 national team of Australia.
The event will start Tuesday, but the national team will open its campaign on Wednesday as it tackles the all-star squad of Taiwan. The Filipinos will then test the mettle of the Iranians, also the reigning Jones Cup champion, on Thursday, and then meets Australia on Friday.
The Nationals take a rest on Saturday, and then return to action Sunday when they face Taiwan.
Waylon Galvez, Manila Bulletin