Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Link to Smart Gilas documentary

Hi, here's a link posted by one of the GMA Pinoy TV Viewers of the Smart Gilas Documentary in Qatar and Dubai last January. It's posted on youtube and the quality is not exactly the best but it's worth the effort :) The segment on Qatar was missed out. But anyway, we're hoping that the material will be bought by one of the programs in QTV or GMA7 so that it can be aired locally, where most of the Filipinos are. Makes sense right?



Thursday, February 11, 2010

Smart Gilas in the 21st Dubai International Tournament

Here's to give you a summary of what transpired in the Dubai International. I'll save my thoughts on the next entry after we've gone through all the teams and games. I know many of you don't exactly follow the games and are probably confused, especially with the unfamiliar names of the Middle Eastern squads. I have difficulty remembering them myself.

10 teams joined the tournament, we were the only non-middle eastern team that participated. The teams were divided into two brackets. Group A - Iran (Mahram), Lebanon (Al-Riyadi), UAE National team, Syria (Al Wehda), Egypt (Al Jazeera). Group B - Philippines (Smart Gilas), Jordan (Zain), Syria (Al Jalaa), Lebanon (Champville), UAE (Al Nasr). These are professional teams composed mainly of National team players plus 2 or 3 imports. The top 4 teams in each bracket move on to the quarterfinals and then a crossover knockout battle ensues 1A vs 4B, 2A vs 3B, 3A vs 2B, 4A vs 1B. We finished 2nd in our group with a 3-1 slate, losing to Al Jalaa Syria in our first game. As a result, we played Egypt in the other group in the quarterfinals and won to clinch a slot in the semis. Al-Riyadi defeated Champville to make it to the semis to forge a duel with us. As you already know, we lost to Al Riyadi (team of CJ Giles) by 3 points and ended up in a battle for 3rd against Al Jalaa of Syria, which we won.

Champion - Iran (Mahram), 2nd place - Lebanon (Al Riyadi), 3rd place - Philippines (Smart Gilas), 4th place - Syria (Al Jalaa)
MVP - Samad Nikkah of Iran
Mythical 5: Center - Woods (Mahram Iran), PF - CJ Giles (Al Riyadi Lebanon), SF - Samad Nikkah (Mahram Iran), SG - Michael (Al Jalaa Syria), PG - JVee Casio (Smart Gilas)

Yes! JVee was awarded the best point guard of the tournament over guards like Mahdi Kamrani of Iran because of his consistency all throughout the tournament and his impeccable 3-point shooting. Oh btw, he was sidelined for about 2.5 weeks until 2 days before the tournament started because of an injury obtained during one of our practice games vs Alaska.


Vs. Al Jalaa Syria

This was our first game of the tournament. We didn't know what to expect because we've never seen this team before and they did not have any player representative during the opening ceremonies. Once the warm-up period started on the court, we were just caught dumbfounded as we were informed that our only import Jamal Sampson was not going to play. And then the opposing team shows up with two 7-footers, two 6'10s, and several stocky players. Apparently, this team had 3 American imports including 2 naturalized Brazilian imports who are not recognized by FIBA, which is why they don't compete in FIBA tournaments. Their lineup included one of the best guards in Asia whose last name is 'Michael'. I can't remember his first name. He was part of the mythical 5 selection. They opened the game with a 14-0 lead, and never looked back. We lost big time in the rebounding and inside scoring departments. And we shot poorly from the outside. We lost 89-76.

Vs. Champville Lebanon

This was the team of Fadi El Khatib, probably the greatest player in Asia and a living legend in Lebanon. When we last played him in May of 2009 in the Champions Cup in Jakarta, he was a bit out of shape and overweight. But this time, he was very much in condition and a man on a mission. He scored 15 points in the 1st quarter and ended up with 40 points!! That's quite an achievement in a FIBA system where we play only 10-minute quarters. I've never played against any player who moved so swiftly and efficiently on the court scoring in all possible ways. Post up, up and under, drives, getting to the foul line, 3 point shot, etc. He stands around 6'6 and is very agile despite his age. Anyway, Jamal Sampson gave us a lift in this game by playing some quality minutes and getting the important rebounds which allowed us to emerge victorious 77-71. I don't exactly have a copy of the stats and my memory is starting to fail me so i can't remember who among the locals played well in this game.

Vs. Zain Jordan

Coach told us that this game will be a true test of character because we are practically playing the national team of Jordan plus 3 imports, just without big man Abbaas and their national team coach. It was our first time to play Jordan, who was reinforced by Sam Daghlas, Rasheem Wright, to name a few. We pretty much controlled the entire game all throughout because of our defense. If i recall correctly, this was the game where i didn't make a 2-pt field goal but had five 3-pointers and 2 free throws. I was lucky because they didn't know our individual tendencies very well which allowed me to get very good looks from beyond the arc. I've watched Rasheem Wright play on TV and he was indeed very explosive despite standing only about 6'2. I thought he was much taller. His first step and his elevation on drives and 3s made him very difficult to defend. Sadly, he sustained a very bad sprain after landing on a jump shot in the middle of the 4th quarter which made him sit out the rest of the game. We ended up winning the game by 3 points, 85-82.

Vs. Al Nasr UAE

This was a professional club team based in Dubai reinforced by 3 imports. 2 American (point guard and center) and 1 Tunisian (power forward). The imports practically scored 95% of all their points. Luckily for us, only two imports are allowed to play at a time inside the court. The PG import was a great scorer. Their center import, Vincent Jones, is probably the best shot blocker in Asia. He stands at 7'0 and can "jump to the roof" as Coach Toroman would put it, with great timing. The Tunisian import looks way older than his age, quite deceiving actually, but is an excellent and intelligent player. He can post up, drive and shoot like crazy! The game got very rugged and physical, with the home team resorting to dirty tactics out of desperation to stay a live. They needed a win to have a chance to qualify to the quarterfinals because they were 0-3 coming into the game. At the end, we were able to stand our ground and hold the fort. We finished the eliminations with a 3-1 record.

That's it for now! More on the quarters, semis, battle for 3rd and my thoughts on the games next time. I have to work now!! Thanks for reading and posting your comments!

Thank you also to Ion Gonzaga, Ares Gutierrez and Karen Santos for the photos, which i took from the Smart Gilas facebook account!


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Middle East Tour - Dubai part 1

Hello again!

I'll try my best to recall the events that took place in our Dubai stint. It's been more than 3 weeks since we arrived at Dubai so forgive me if i skip out on some details.

For those who do not closely follow the Smart Gilas team, we went to Dubai to participate in the 21st Dubai International Tournament, where the best Middle Eastern professional clubs take part in. The professional teams that joined are comprised mostly of National team players reinforced by 3 imports. However, only 2 imports are allowed to play simultaneously inside the court at a time. Most of the teams had 2 or 3 imports. We had only one import because this import would be the candidate for naturalization in preparation for the Asian Games in November and the FIBA Asia Championships in 2011, where teams are allowed to field in one naturalized player. Sad to say, our lone import Jamal Sampson played not more than 45 minutes COMBINED in all 7 games that we played there, missing 3 games including the 2 most important ones. The reason for this is, according to him, a sore knee.

So after competing in two grueling duels in Qatar, we took a one hour flight across the Persian gulf into Dubai. We had 3 days to prepare before the start of the tournament. Our first exhibition match was against the Pinoy All-stars based in Dubai, composed of ex-PBA and semi-pro players like Jojo Manalo, Don Yabut of FEU, etc. The match was held in the Al-Nasr gym, which was flocked by Filipinos. It was a fun game highlighted by dunks by Japeth Aguilar. Smart Gilas broke the game open in the 4th quarter as the Pinoy All-stars ran out of gas towards the end. Our 2nd exhibition match was against the UAE National team, where we lost (Can't remember the final score) due to, i would say, overconfidence. It was a serious lesson for us! UAE finished 12th place in the FIBA Asia Championships in 2009 in Tianjin while the Philippines finished 8th, out of 16 teams.

Before the tournament started, we are able to squeeze in some time to tour the city which has recently been undergoing an economic crisis. UAE is composed of 7 states, or emirates as they call it, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al-Quwain, Ras al-Khaimah and Fujairah. The capital and the second largest of the emirates is Abu Dhabi, who also provided a $10 billion bailout for the collapsing Dubai.

Dubai boasts of the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, formerly known as Burj Dubai, which stands at 828m high! Surpassing Taipei 101. There's also the very unique reclaimed land area that is called "The Palms" and they say it can be seen all the way from the moon, like the shape of a palm leaf, of course. It also houses the Jumeirah resorts that built the world's only 7-star hotel, the Burj Al-Arab (The sail-like building with photo above). Room rates start from $2,500 a night, depending on the season and can go up to $30,000 for the suites. Incredible! I'm glad enough to have stepped inside the jaw-dropping, marvelous, magical lobby, thanks to our very gracious and warm family friend, Imelda Kunkler, who took me around the various Jumeriah resorts including the Madinat (resort with its own lake) where we had wonderful Chinese food with her husband Robert despite his extremely busy schedule.

Thank you also to GMA7 for taking us around, especially for allowing us to experience snow in the middle of a desert! Most of the players were able to experience playing with ice/snow for the first time inside the Ski Dubai in the Mall of the Emirates. The entire team had so much fun wearing complete snow gears and enjoying the rides. It was an amazing 3000 sq. meter snow park where one could go skiing, snow boarding, sledding, etc. The temperature was -2 degrees celsius. We couldn't last too long so we proceeded to the largest mall in the world (according to them), the Dubai Mall, which had a spectacular view of the Burj Khalifa.

I want to thank also all the Pinoys we met along the way who made our trip truly memorable! I felt that I was simply traveling in another one of the many Philippine provinces because of the sheer number of Filipinos all over the place, in the hotels, malls, gyms, etc. To all the Pinoys in Dubai, you certainly made us feel at home! Salamat!

Here's another picture of the world's tallest building at night with it's own version of the dancing fountain like that of Bellagio in Las Vegas.

That's it for now. I'm getting too sleepy. I will blog more about the tournament proper when i find the time. In the meantime, feel free to comment :)