Smart Gilas Pilipinas Play with Saudi

Armed with pride and desire, Smart Gilas hopes to throw the full force of these weapons on Lebanon’s Al Riyadi Friday in the semifinals of the 21st Dubai International Tournament at the Al Ahli Club here.

Smart Gilas toppled Al Jazeera of Egypt in the quarterfinals while Al Riyadi booted out Champville to forge the semifinal clash.

Opposite Riyadi, the Nationals will face five American imports and a bunch of local players with impressive skills.

The 6-foot-11 CJ Giles, who played for Gilas before transferring to Lebanon, will team up with Joe Voegl (6-foot-11), 6-foot-10 Matt Freiji, 6-foot-6 Nate Johnson and playmaker Sean Colson.

Giles, Freiji and Colson played in the NBA.

“But I still believe we could beat these guys,” said Gilas team captain Chris Tiu.

“They have a deep frontline but the best part is there’s no pressure for us now. Nobody expected us to come this far,” he added.

Marnel Baracael, who exploded for 24 points against the Egyptians, is expected to show the same character along with JV Casio, Mark Barroca, Marcio Lassiter and Tiu.

A revelation in this tournament, Jason Ballesteros will again protect the shaded area for Gilas since Jamal Sampson is uncertain of playing.

The 6-foot-11 Sampson sat out the entire second half, complaining of pain in his left knee.

“Our guys showed they’re respectable,” said Gilas coach Rajko Toroman.

“What we lacked in size, we compensate with our hearts.”

Gilas defeated Al Riyadi in the 2009 Fiba Asia Champions Cup in Jakarta with the same set of local players and with Johnson as import.

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