HANGZHOU—The Philippines faces perhaps its first worthy opponent in the 19th Asian Games’ men’s 5×5 competition—Jordan—on Saturday but ahead of the showdown, it’s all fun for Gilas Pilipinas and their foes’ naturalized player Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
Hollis-Jefferson came over to hug and greet Gilas head coach Tim Cone, Justin Brownlee and TNT Tropang Giga teammate Calvin Oftana when they ran across each other at a training facility Wednesday.
Even the TNT utility guy doubling for the national team got a warm embrace from the friendly Hollis-Jefferson, whose Jordanian squad face the Filipinos for an outright quarterfinals berth from Group C at 5:30 p.m. at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Center Gymnasium.
The Philippines had a one-and-a-half hour practice for the game against Thailand on Thursday and was on its way to the third floor elevator when Jordan’s top player showed up smiling broadly and started throwing high fives all around.
Apparently, the Jordanians were also having team practice at an adjacent playing court in preparation for their game against Bahrain the next day, and Hollis-Jefferson seized the chance to catch up with familiar faces.
There wouldn’t be much of that pleasantry in their next meeting, though, with both teams looking to sweep Group C of the preliminaries and move on, avoiding any disastrous detours in the event of a loss.
The Philippines and Jordan arranged the all-important clash between two unbeaten teams after they each dispatched their first two opponents, Bahrain and Thailand.
Nobody from Gilas, least of all Cone, is under any illusion, however, that Jordan will be a walk in the park.
“They’re going to be tough,” said Cone after Gilas survived Thailand and a barrage of three-point shots from Tyler Lamb and Frederick Lish, 87-72.
“What can you say? They blew this team [Thais] out by 37 points, and we only beat them by what, 15 or whatever? So if you look at it that way, we don’t have much of a chance.
“But I think [if] you walk into our locker room when you talk to everyone of those guys, they think we can beat Jordan.”
Though Cone wouldn’t go to specifics, it’s almost a foregone conclusion Gilas’ defensive strategy on Saturday would cover a big percentage of Hollis-Jefferson’s offense.
“We’re going to try to put a big performance together and go out and play Jordan,” he said.
Image credits: Nonie Reyes (CANON EOS R6)