Smart Gilas Pilipinas Fighting Jordan

Smart Gilas Pilipinas will need to double up its efforts if it wants to beat Zain of Jordan, which sent one of the strongest teams in the 21st Dubai Invitational here.

“Zain is composed of Jordan’s national team, which I think is going to play in the Olympics, plus three American imports,” said Smart Gilas coach Rajko Toroman a day after steering the Filipinos to a 77-71 win over Champville of Lebanon.

Indeed, the Jordanians would be one of the teams to watch in this tough 10-day tournament although they showed some opening game jitters before trouncing Al Nasr of United Arab Emirates, 89-80, in overtime Friday.

Zain drew strength from the 32-point performance from Rasheim Wright, an American-born naturalized Jordanian out of District of Columbia, and the 15-point, eight-assist effort of Sam Daghlas, a Jordanian who played college ball for Midwestern State.

The Mario Palma-coached Jordanians happened to be bronze medal winners in the 2009 FIBA-Asia Championship in Tianjin, China that sealed them a berth in the FIBA World Championship in Turkey this August.

What’s even scarier, the Jordanians will parade three huge American reinforcements — former Talk N’ Text import Damien Cantrell, Ashante Johnson and Kendall Dartez.

“If you’re sending your national team, which is one of the best in Asia, and you play with three Americans, imagine what kind of team they are,” said Toroman.

Interestingly, the Nationals will be facing the Jordanians for the first time since they were formed two years ago with an ultimate goal of snatching a berth in the 2012 London Olympics.

Smart Gilas, now sporting a 1-1 (win-loss) record, was playing Zain at press time last night (9 p.m. Philippine time) and a win would send the former straight to the quarterfinal round and a chance of snaring one of the top two seeds in Group B, which will give it the right to face the lower seeds in the other bracket.

Still, Toroman said nothing is impossible, especially after coming off a morale-boosting victory over the Fadi El Khatib-led Champville of Lebanon early Saturday.

“The team got the confidence in our win against Lebanon, I hope against Zain, we’ll play better,” said Toroman.

Smart Gilas, whose trip here is bankrolled by Smart and supported by Nike and GMA International, is bracketed with Zain, Champville, Al Nasr of UAE and Al Jalaa of Syria in Group B.

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