Asia’s powerhouse Iran national team arrived in Manila to hold two tune-up games with Gilas Pilipinas on Tuesday and Wednesday as part the two teams’ build up for the FIBA Olympic Qualifier in July.
Even without familiar Iranian players Hamed Haddadi, Nikkhah Bahrami and Mehdi Kamrani, the Iranians mentored by German Dirk Bauermann remained a strong team because of towering line up led by Sajjad Mashayekhi and Mohammad Jamshidi.
“We’re going to play Iran in two series of tune up games,” said Gilas Pilipinas mentor Tab Baldwin. “I believe it will help both teams. We’re getting better each practice basically despite the injuries. We’ve missed Marcio [Lassiter] and Jeff [Chan] is not yet 100 percent in practice. We are not on the stage yet that we’ve wanted to be but we’ll be there.”
On Tuesday, Gilas Pilipinas and Iran will play in a close-door tune up game. The second game on Wednesday at the Araneta Coliseum will be open to the public.
Iran will be playing in the other FIBA Olympic qualifier hosted by Turin, Italy on July 4 to 9 together with Greece, Mexico, Tunisia, Croatia and host Italy.
The Philippines will be hosting the FIBA Olympic qualifier on July 5 to 10 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Gilas Pilipinas is bracketed with Turkey, France, Senegal, Canada and New Zealand. The other host country is Serbia and they have Angola, Puerto Rico, Japan, Latvia and Czech Republic. They will be holding the qualifiers also on July 4 to 9.
“But I’m really happy and confident the team will be just fine as the [Olympic] qualifier gets near. All the players in the national pool are doing their best. We’re running a lot of drills and so far the results are getting better. We just have to keep going,” added Baldwin.
After the Iran tune up games, Gilas Pilipinas will go to Europe to attend a training camp on June 10 and play against various foreign nations in Greece, Turkey and Bologna in Italy as part of their preparation.
JOSEF T. RAMOS