Filed Under: Sports, Basketball, Fiba Asia Champions Cup, Smart Gilas Pilipinas, Rajko Toroman
MANILA—Smart Gilas Pilipinas has never made it past the quarterfinals of the Fiba Asia Champions Cup.
With a partisan crowd set to rally behind them, the Nationals are expected to outdo themselves this time around.
Coach Rajko Toroman and the PH five will start their bid to reach the finals against Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ittihad in the opener of the 22nd Fiba Asia Champions Cup on May 28 at the Philsports Arena in Pasig City.
Smart Gilas is in a less threatening bracket that also includes ASU of Jordan, Duhok of Iraq and Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur Dragons, and a quarterfinal berth is easily within reach—but that’s not what the Nationals are eyeing. “We’re aiming for a Finals appearance and see what happens from there,” said Toroman, whose team finished fifth and seventh in the past two editions of the continental club championships.
The other group will have back-to-back champion Mahram of Iran, reigning West Arab league and Lebanese champion Al Riyadi of Lebanon, Syria’s Al Jalaa, Al Shabab of United Arab Emirates and Qatar’s Al Rayyan, last year’s runner-up.
“We know the Filipino people are coming to watch and cheer for us and we don’t want to disappoint them,” said Toroman.
After the Saudis, Smart Gilas faces the Dragons, whose roster could include two reinforcements and a number of Filipino imports.