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Gilas faces tall order in Jones Cup

By Jerome Lagunzad

Familiar figures and fresh faces stand in the way of Gilas Pilipinas national team’s title drive in the William Jones Cup which tips off on July 15 at the Taipei Peace International Basketball Hall in Taiwan.

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The Nationals, composed mostly of Gilas cadets and several amateur standouts like Kiefer Ravena, Ray Parks and Kobe Paras, are in for a tough grind in the 10-team, nine-day tournament as they try to sustain the country’s title reign following Mighty Sports’ remarkable title run last year.

Reinforced by 6-foot-8 American Mike Myers, the TNT’s back-up import in the Commissioner’s Cup, the Nationals will have their hands full in trying to claim the country’s sixth overall title against a crack field which also lured some national teams of their fierce Asian rivals.

Continental powerhouse and five-time Jones Cup champion Iran, despite the absence of its regular stars Hamed Haddadi and Samad Nikkha Barahmi, should remain as one of the favorites behind a towering lineup made up of 7-footer Keyvan Reaei, 6-11 Ebrahim Beigiharchegani and six other players standing at least 6-foot-8.

The Koreans should also gain a fair share of the spotlight, with 2014 FIBA World Cup veterans, 6-foot-9 Kim Jong-kyu and Kim Sun-hyung, 6-foot-7 forwards Lee Seung-hyun and Oh Se-keun leading the way.

Lithuanian pro club Atletas All-Star, which produced former NBA All-Star and long-time Cleveland Cavaliers center Zydrunas Ilgauskas and current New Orleans Pelicans forward Donatas Motiejunas, is set to bring in a European flavor to the annual cage spectacle.