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Gilas 5 to go all out vs Kuwait in Asian Games opener

Smart Gilas-Pilipinas coach Rajko Toroman won’t take the smaller Kuwait team lightly when the Nationals plunge into action at the start of the 16th Asian Games basketball competition on November 13 at the Huangpu Gymnasium in Guangzhou, China.

The Gilas team faces Kuwait in the knockout preliminary round, needing a win to advance into the tournament proper, which will start on November 16.

Saudi Arabia was the Philippines’ original opponent, but it pulled out from the competition. Kuwait took its place and decided to continue with participation after reports said that the team might also pull out of the tournament.

Toroman, the Serbian coach who was appointed last year in the hope that he can steer the nationals into earning a berth in the 2012 London Olympics, said that the Kuwait team is smaller than Gilas, but that it can play rough and sometimes dirty.

“They are a small-sized team compared to us but they have players who are good scorers in the Arabic league. They also play dirty so we have to be cool. But in the end it will be the quality of the game that will decide it for us," said Toroman.

“I’m happy with the team, but I would have been happier if (Marcus) Douthit were part of the team," added Toroman.

The 6-foot-10 Douthit’s naturalization papers have passed the Senate but still need the signature of President Noynoy Aquino for the player to finally earn his Filipino citizenship.

Though failing to get his accreditation papers from the Guangzhou Asian Games Organizing Committee (GAGOC), Douthit joined the team that left Tuesday.

Other members of the team are Chris Tiu, Mark Barroca, Dylan Ababou, Greg Slaughter, Jason Ballesteros, Japeth Aguilar, Marnel Baracael, JV Casio, Aldrech Ramos, Filipino-Americans Chris Lutz and Marcia Lassiter, and PBA reinforcements Paul Asi Taulava, Kelly Williams and Solomon Mercado.

Mercado, however, is still a doubtful starter after suffering from a bone contusion on his left heel during Rain Or Shine’s 110-107 win over San Miguel Beer on Sunday night.

“The doctors told me that it will need four to six weeks. But they also advised me to take a four-day rest and see if the condition will improve," said Mercado.

While it will be Toroman’s call if he will be part of the final 12-player line-up, Mercado said he is ready to compete and plans on drinking pain killers before every game just to be able to help the team’s campaign.

The final 12 players will be decided during the team managers' meeting on November 12.

The winner between the Philippines and Kuwait will advance into Group F alongside Iran, Japan, Chinese Taipei and the winner between Afghanistan and India in the other knockout preliminary round.

The Philippines is bidding to win a medal, something the country hasn't done since the Centennial Team headed by coach Tim Cone settled for a bronze in the 1998 Bangkok Asiad. – JVP/KY, GMANews.TV
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