MANILA, Philippines -- Qatar’s coach is banking on his familiarity with Philippine basketball to help his squad when they take on a new-look Team Pilipinas in the second round of the FIBA World CUp Asian qualifiers on Monday evening.
British coach Tim Lewis has been around Philippine basketball before, having briefly served as a consultant for TNT KaTropa last year. He also coached the Thailand side that competed in the 2017 SEABA Championships before taking on the Qatar job.
Lewis also shared some knowledge with the national team that represented the Philippines in the 2017 Southeast Asian Games.
However, the Philippine team that Qatar will be playing on Monday is drastically different from the one that Lewis is familiar with.
“Obviously, I was around with Chot (Reyes) and the Gilas (program),” Lewis said on Sunday, referring to the national team’s former head coach. “It’s a different system now, some different players.”
Yeng Guiao has taken over as national team head coach, and several of the Gilas mainstays -- players such as Jayson Castro, Calvin Abueva, and Terrence Romeo -- are all serving suspensions in the wake of the Philippines’ brawl against Australia last July.
In their stead, new stars are rising, along with former standouts: Stanley Pringle will be the naturalized player on Monday, having gotten the nod over Christian Standhardinger. Veteran PBA players such as Marcio Lassiter and Alex Cabagnot are finally suiting up for flag and country, after a long wait.
“Being around TNT and being around the PBA, you get to have an idea of how these players play,” said Lewis. “So it definitely helps.”
“But ultimately it's the players that are on the floor that gotta perform and do the job. So I can know everything about them, but whether we can transfer that, that's the key,” he said.
Moreover, Lewis is well aware that regardless of who the players are, the Philippine team remains as solid as ever.
“They play in a strong league, and they’re well-coached,” he pointed out. “So I think it's probably not a fair statement to say it's a weak Gilas team. I think it's a different Gilas team.”
There are still challenges for the Philippine team, such as their chemistry with each other and familiarity with Guiao’s system. But Lewis knows this will not stop them from putting up a tremendous effort on Monday night.
“They performed well against Iran, and they did a good job in the Asian Games,” he said. “So the core of that team is together and I'm sure they'll come out and be super competitive.”
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