The 2013 FIBA Asia tournament is officially upon us, as 15 countries compete for regional supremacy. While every team may have championship dreams, the home squad will be the ones under the most pressure.
The question is, how will the Philippines fare with FIBA coming to their country?
The 2013 FIBA Asia tournament will be hosted in Manila, Philippines, thus creating a potentially lively crowd. With the popularity of basketball increasing in Philippines on a daily basis, there's no question that the crowd will be pulling for their countrymen.
They certainly have players to get behind.
|June Mar Fajardo||24||6'11"||C|
|Ranidel de Ocampo||32||6'5"||F|
Player to Watch: Marcus Douthit, C
Avid college basketball fans may recognize Marcus Douthit, as he was once a revered defensive big man at Providence. He finished his final season with the Friars with averages of 3.2 blocks and 1.6 steals per game, ranking seventh in the nation in the former.
Philippines will need every ounce of that defensive presence to make a run through the FIBA Asia tournament.
Douthit has been a dominant force in Asia, averaging 19.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.6 blocks and 1.5 steals in 29 games of China's CBA action. After nine games with the Philippines' PBA, he's averaging 20.3 points, 20.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 2.2 blocks and 1.2 steals.
It's safe to say that he's an impact player.
If Douthit is able to dominate the glass and pound it inside, he'll give the Philippines' national basketball team a fighting chance. Not only will they be in the running, but his power and prowess along the interior could be enough to lead the squad to multiple victories and earn them a reputation as a favorite.
It's all about finding the supporting cast.
X-Factor: LA Tenorio, G
LA Tenorio is one of the biggest stars in Filipino basketball, serving as, arguably, the best point guard in the country. This past season, the 29-year-old saw a decline in production, going from 14.8 points and 6.2 assists to 12.9 points and 4.8 assists, but still maintained his clutch prowess.
Smart Gilas will need Tenorio at his best in Manila.
There's no question that Tenorio is capable of producing, as he makes an impact across the board from a statistical standpoint. The key here is that the veteran needs to play under control, limiting turnovers, avoiding hero ball and helping the Philippines set up in half-court sets.
If he's unable to take care of the ball, the Philippines will be exposed.
Both sides of the coin were on full display in Smart Gilas' 2013 FIBA Asia debut, when Tenorio picked up 12 points, six assists and six rebounds in a 78-66 win over Saudi Arabia. With that being said, he also committed five turnovers and put his team in jeopardy of blowing their lead.
With he and Douthit closing the game out, however, the Philippines picked up an opening win and now has something to cheer about. Picking up five turnovers against a power simply wouldn't be acceptable.
Then again, who's going to be foolish enough to write Tenorio off in the clutch?
This is a star-studded event, with players such as Hamed Haddadi of Iran and Yi Jianlian of China leading the favorites. After watching Korea upset China, however, it's clear that anything is possible in this event.
That's why we're picking the home squad to come through with a top-three finish.
Douthit told ABS-CBN News that he expects this year's Filipino squad to step up and secure a medal. With the home crowd playing a major role in deciding momentum and the Philippines putting out a strong crop of players, that's a legitimate possibility, especially when Douthit and Tenorio are working the low-high game.
Douthit is going to be the key to the Filipinos success, as he's just as powerful a star as any other player involved in this tournament. He'll play smothering defense, make a major impact on the boards and, when he needs to, pound it down low to score.
For that reason, we're siding with Philippines taking home a medal from this event.
With China slipping up early, we're inclined to believe that the Philippines will have a new level of confidence. If or when they come across the powerful squad, they now have a formula to follow to achieve victory.
Don't rule out the gold, but our safe prediction is for the Philippines to win a bronze medal.