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Gilas, Iran in friendly clash

For the first time since colliding in the FIBA Asia Championship in China, Asian powerhouse Iran and Gilas Pilipinas will clash in a lighter setting as the two teams play in a pair of friendly matches in preparation for their participation in this year’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT).

The country will play host to one of the three OQTs scheduled July 5 to 10 at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena in Pasay City, while Iran will compete in the qualifier to be held in Turin, Italy.

The Filipinos and the Iranians will face-off at 6 p.m. today in a closed-door encounter at the Gatorade Hoops Gym in Shaw Boulevard, Mandaluyong City.

An exhibition game open to the public will follow tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Led by its German coach Dirk Bauermann, Iran arrived last early Sunday but was without its ‘big three’ of 7-foot-2 center Hamed Haddadi, versatile forward Samad Nikkhah Bahrami and veteran point guard Mehdi Kamrani.

The first match will allow the two teams to discuss certain plays, according to Bauermann, aimed at improving the system of the two teams. The second game will be more of a competitive one.

“That’s why we’re doing this first game, to just practice on situations that will happen during the game,” said Bauermann, who is in his second year as coach of the Iran national team.

“The game on the 8th will be a real basketball game. Everybody’s going to try to win and leave his best game on the floor. We have the highest respect for Gilas and coach (Tab Baldwin).”

The games will be the first between the two nations since the Filipinos outclassed the Iranians, 87-73, in the second round elimination of the FIBA Asia Championship in Changsha, China.

Gilas coach Tab Baldwin has mentioned that playing Iran will provide answers regarding their preparedness to play international basketball since official practice session started about three weeks ago.

“It’s going to benefit us, it’s going to benefit Iran,” said Baldwin. “These games are crucial for us, as we move forward with our preparation. This would help us in a lot of ways. Iran is a strong team.”

Even without its veteran troika of Haddadi-Bahrami-Kamrani, Iran remains formidable.

It has the likes of veterans Oshin Sahakian, a Mythical Five selection during the Asian championship here in 2013, and 7-foot center Asghar Kardoust, as well as youngsters Mohammad Jamshidi and Arsalan Kazemi, a second round draft pick of the Washington Wizards during the 2013 NBA Rookie Draft.