THE Philippines goes after powerhouse Iran in the Fiba World Cup Asian Qualifiers on Thursday at the Azady Gym Tehran with a roster laced with new players.
The game is set at 8:30 p.m. (Manila time).
Head Coach Yeng Guiao named his final 12 lineup led by Christian Standhardinger, Gabe Norwood and Paul Lee, and also anchored by Beau Belga, Raymond Almazan, Poy Erram, Asi Taulava and Ian Sangalang.
Manning the backcourt are Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter, Scottie Thompson and Allein Maliksi.
“It’s going to be a tough team. The more we watch the video[s], the more we study how they play, the more the challenge gets bigger and bigger,” Guiao said.
“I’ve said this before—you play Iran anywhere, it’s going to be a tall order for you to beat them. But if you play them in Iran, that’s even a taller order,” he added.
It will be the Philippines first match since its ugly brawl against Australia last July at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan that resulted to the suspension of 10 Filipino players and Coach Chot Reyes.
Citing “unsportsmanlike behavior of its delegation members and of its public, as well as for insufficient organization of the game,” Fiba also fined the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas P13 million.
That was the last tour of duty for Reyes, who was tasked to focus on the 2023 Fiba World Cup.
Now, with the task on the hand right on Guiao’s shoulders, the retooled team tries stay in the top 3 of the zone to earn an outright berth to the World Cup next year in China.
Iran and Australia lead the group with 5-1 won-lost records, followed by the Philippines with 4-2.
Guiao opted to exclude 7-foot center Greg Slaughter, as the big man has yet to recover from an ankle injury.
National team revelation Stanley Pringle was also cut with Guiao going for ceiling and took Standhardinger instead.
As expected, 7-foot-2 mammoth Hamed Haddadi will be at the forefront of Iran’s assault.
Haddadi, a former National Basketball Association player, averaged 16.8 points and 12 rebounds in four games for his team.
“We worry a lot about Haddadi because of his size, because of his experience, and he’s very intelligent—he knows how to make use of his assets,” Guiao said.
Iran also has a slew of talented players led by veteran forward Nikka Bahrami and second-best scorer Behnam Yakhchali.
But Guiao believes his squad is capable of pulling off a surprise right in their turf.
“Coming off a decent Asian Games campaign despite a short preparation, I’m hopeful that we could put up a good fight against Iran,” he said.