- Head coach Charles Tiu is banking heavily on his team’s offensive firepower
- NBA vets Nick Young, Renaldo Balkman and Shabazz Muhammad are also part of the team
- Vaunted Ivorian-Filipino center Ange Kouame will not be joining the team due to illness
The basketball-crazed nation of the Philippines is eyeing back-to-back titles at the 32nd Dubai International Basketball Championship under Strong Group, and head coach Charles Tiu has the unenviable task of balancing his talent.
The International Business Times was able to speak with Tiu following their third practice session together last January 12 and get his perspective on what the team needs to do to succeed.
“We’re going to be shooting lots of threes, that’s for sure. We’re gonna let guys create. All of my guys can shoot, that’s one thing we have in our pocket. That’s something we’re going to be working on a lot, but as I’ve told them, the main goal would be to find a way to defend. Offensively, I’m not worried,” he initially mentioned.
“We have enough pieces to find a way to score and we’ll let them play a bit and go out there and have fun. Defensively is where we really have to be a bit more solid.”
Bannered by NBA veterans like Nick Young, Shabazz Muhammad and Renaldo Balkman, Strong Group is composed of the country’s biggest collegiate basketball stars like BJ Andrade, Migs Oczon, Jerom Lastimosa, Justine Baltazar and Will Gozum.
Filipino-American guard and NBA G League product Sedrick Barefield, Inand Fornillos, JD Cagulangan youngster Francis Lopez, and team owner Jacob Lao round out the cast.
Tiu’s concerns about defensive stability were very much understandable as his young wards were coming off intense collegiate basketball stints and his imports still needed to acclimate to their new teammates.
During the behind-closed-doors practice, IBTimes observed that Tiu’s comments about the offense are warranted as everyone across the board had ample opportunities to take their own shots.
However, one thing that fans need not worry about is the camaraderie among them as everyone was interacting with each other as if they had been through a ton of battles.
When asked if they have any secret game plans, Tiu had the following to say: “To be honest, when you have a team like this, when you have two weeks to prepare, you can’t complicate things. You have to go simple and work with your players’ strengths because you have so many things to work on, you have to prioritize what you want within a limited timeframe.”
It should be noted that Ivorian-Filipino center and three-time University Athletics Association of the Philippines (UAAP) champion Ange Kouame will not be joining the team due to dengue.
Tiu had revealed over the course of the interview that he had planned to have lineups involving Kouame and two imports on the floor, but him being out does complicate things.
He had previously indicated that Young will play a big role for this team on offense thanks to his skills as a sharpshooter and Tiu was optimistic that Young will continue to find his footing moving forward, especially on defense.
With the tournament set to kick off on Friday, January 27, Strong Group has little time left on their hands and Tiu’s optimism about his team’s potential will showcase itself on the court.