Shortly after his team got a beating at the hands of Gilas Pilipinas on Friday night, Adelaide 36ers coach Jay Wright talked to sportswriters and gave words that surely warmed the heart of his Filipino counterpart in Yeng Guiao.
“They play with a lot of heart, a lot of passion,” Wright, who once played for Presto as an import in the PBA, said without batting an eyelash when asked to describe the Filipino squad on the night Gilas scored a 92-83, win over the Australians.
“They got some guys that can shoot, they got some guys that can rebound and they got some guys that can defend,” said Wright of the Filipinos in the first of two friendlies between the two squads.
Now in the final stretch of their buildup for the World Cup in China, the Filipinos return to the Meralco court in Pasig to face the 36ers again in a game that will mark the return of Kiefer Ravena after a long Fiba ban.
Ravena’s ban ended yesterday, paving the way for the NLEX star to finally suit up for the Nationals.
The guard has made no secret of his excitement for his return, even posting a countdown on his Instagram Stories.
Guiao may start him in tonight’s game, considering that Ravena, in the words of his coach, is “in really good shape.”
“Kiefer kept himself in really good shape, he worked hard. He’s mentally strong, he has high basketball IQ. So ako sa tingin ko, siguro mangangapa siya sa first few minutes, but he’ll get his game back,” said Yeng of his prized guard.
Wright expects another tough, entertaining game between the Filipinos and the Australians at the same Meralco gym.
“They’re gonna try to attack us with Blatche (Andray) as much as they could. We’ll try to make sure we neutralize him a little bit in the second game and probably attack in a few different areas,” added Wright, who once played with PBA great Allan Caidic in the 90s.
Guiao is also expecting another tough game from the Aussies, something which they badly need as the team enters the last few days of its training for the biggest basketball showpiece slated to unfold on Aug. 1 in eight key cities in China.
“The 36ers gave us a really good game. I felt that it was exactly what we needed. Yun ang talagang kailangan natin. Rugged, physical, playing against bigger guys,” said Guiao after the game.
The Filipinos open their World Cup bid against world’s No. 9 Italy on Aug. 1 in one of eight matches taking the lid off the 32-nation, eight-group showcase.
They return on Sept. 2 to play No. 4 Serbia and end its elimination round stint against Angola two days later.
This is the second straight time that the country will see action in the once-in-every-four-years tournament. The last time, the Filipinos won against Angola but lost to Greece, Croatia and Argentina by close margins.