FORMER Gilas Pilipinas coach Rajko Toroman knew that the Gilas-Pilipinas campaign in the FIBA World Cup this August in Spain will not be a walk in the park but he is still optimistic.
The Serbian coach said that the National team will be hardpressed to get a win from its group considering how tough each opponent is, but believes reaching the second round of the tournament is "doable."
Speaking from his home in Serbia where he is currently based, the former Gilas coach said getting wins against Group B powers Argentina, Greece, Puerto Rico, and Croatia is "close to impossible" but refused to rule out Gilas accomplishing its mission of advancing to the next round.
Toroman singled out Senegal as the only team in the bracket which Gilas can beat, but insisted it won't be easy.
“I think it’s possible (to earn a win) but it will be very tough,” expressed Toroman.
The 34th-ranked Senegal will most likely be bannered by former Sacramento Kings' seven-foot center Hamady N’Diaye and Euroleague veterans like agile 6-8 forward Maleye Ndoye and 6-11 center Mouhamed Sene, former back-up center of the now defunct Seattle Supersonics.
“We can beat Senegal, we can pull off a surprise, (but) we have to be competitive (when we go there in Spain)," he added. “It will be a very tough game. I won’t even be disappointed if we lose to them. African teams are athletic plus they have NBA players.”
Toroman's successor at Gilas, Chot Reyes, has targeted two wins from the bracket to reach the next phase of the tournament. But the Serbian coach said such an achievement would be "amazing."
“We need to win two games so we can advance to the next round and face Group A, where there is Serbia, Spain etc,” Toroman said. “Winning a game there is great, winning two games will be amazing!”
Asked if the Philippines can beat Puerto Rico, Toroman was obviously not too optimistic.
“It’s very, very difficult. Puerto Rico is a very competitive team not just for Philippines but for other teams. A lot of teams will have a difficult time beating Puerto Rico,” he said.
The 17th-seeded Puerto Rico will most likely parade Minesota Timberwolves bak-up point guard JJ Barea, former Pistons' guard Carlos Arroyo and former Petron import Renaldo Balkman, who is also a former New York Knick.
“They have a good mix of guards and big guy, they have a good big man in Daniel Santiago,” Toroman said. “It will be tough but we have to believe that we can win two games and go to the next round.”
Santiago is a former Milwaukee Bucks back-up center.
Toroman believes that regardless the result, Gilas' campaign in the World Cup will do a world of good for Filipino players in terms of experience and competitive level.
On the other hand, 3rd-ranked Argentina will parade 4 NBA players in Manu Ginobili, Spurs: Carlos Delfino, Bucks: Knicks' Pablo Prigioni and Luis Scola of the Pacers. But Delfino might not suit up because he is currently sideline with an injury. They also have former Bulls' Foward Andres Nocioni.
Greece,seeded 5th, has only one NBA player in promising rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Bucks. But there line-up will parade former NBA players and draft picks in veteran Antonis Fotsis, who had a brief instinct with the Grizzlies and Vasileios Spanoulis, a sweet shooting guard formerly of the Pacers. They also have two former draft picks who is currently playing in the Euro League in Georgios Printezes and Kostas Papanikalaou.
No. 16 Croatia has no current NBA player but will rely heavily on former Raptors back-up point guard in Roko Ukic and Bojan Bogdanovic, a 31st overall selection in the 2011 NBA Draft by the Nets.
“For me, the most important thing is to get some experience and toughness for the Fiba Asia 2016. That’s the most important part of our participation there,” he said.
--- with reports from Spin.ph
Former Gilas Coach Rajko Toroman optimistic on Gilas chances in the World Cup despite facing powerhouse opponents
Reviewed by Jay-R Bayon-on