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Philippines - National team to fight for 2008 Olympic ticket


The Philippine men's national basketball team seemed determined to compete for a ticket to 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing as the coach reacted to Wednesday's draw for the FIBA-Asia Men's Championship, a local newspaper reported on Thursday.

Chot Reyes, head coach of the national team San Miguel-Pilipinas, said that the Philippines fell into a "group of death" including defending champion China and Middle Eastern powerhouses Jordan and Iran, the Manila Bulletin reported.

"Unfortunately, we're in the Group of Death," the report quoted Reyes as saying on learning of the draws from the host city Tokushima, Japan.

"This team and this country have come too far to be denied," he said. "It is not our style to dwell on negatives, so our only focus now is how to beat Iran and Jordan."

The Philippines won the title for the Southeast Asia Basketball Associations (SEABA) Men's Championship in Ratchaburi, Thailand two weeks ago.

Indonesia, the only other Southeast Asian team in the field at Tokushima, finished second to the Philippines in that tournament.

FIBA in February this year lifted a ban that had prevented Philippine basketball team from attending any international match since 2005.

The FIBA-Asia Championship, scheduled on July 28 to Aug. 5, will pick the continent's representative to the Beijing Olympics in August next year.

If China, which is seeded to the Olympics as host country, makes it to the Tokushima final, the other finalist automatically qualifies to the Games.

And if the Chinese fails to advance to the championship, only the winner will go to Beijing.
India - India pin hopes on junior hoopsters


After good performances by its junior teams in the recent past, the Basketball Federation of India?s (BFI) latest strategy for its senior team is to have a liberal dose of juniors.

The experiment is going to be tried out in the 22nd FIBA Asia championship, to which a 15-member senior women?s team is being sent out. The Asian meet will be held in Incheon, Korea, from June 3 to 10. At the last edition in China, India had finished 10th out of 16 teams.

"The Asian meet is always a strong one, but we?re hoping that with this team we?ll better our last performance," said BFI secretary general Harish Sharma.

"The girls had been preparing for this tournament through the two-month national camp that was on at the SAI Centre in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, and hence go well-prepared," Sharma said.

"In the team, five girls ? Kiranjit Kaur, Akanksha Singh, Rashmi Channegowda, Bharti and Raspreet Sidhu ? are from our junior talent group and we hope this mixture of exuberance of youth and experience of the seniors will be the perfect blend for success. I hope they have been able to bridge the fitness gap that has always proved a handicap," Sharma added.
Lebanon - Apoel coach takes over Lebanese national basketball team


Dentalcon Apoel?S head coach Dragan Raca agreed terms with the Lebanese Basketball Federation to take over their national team prior to the beginning of the Asian Championship qualifications.

Raca, who will travel to the neighbouring country on Sunday in order to officially take over the team, was pleased with the new opportunity: ?The Lebanese Basketball Federation believed in me. This is a great honor for me since the Lebanese team is one of the best in Asia and basketball is the most popular sport in the country. Taking over the national team is a big challenge for me.?
Philippines - If not Beijing then London


Filipino cage athletes and fans dream of the Philippine team making it to the Beijing Olympics next year. Can the dream come true?

Why not? Didn?t our team shine in Thailand last week? We must commend the Philippines? men?s basketball team for sweeping (and topping) the Seaba Men?s Basketball Championships held at Ratchaburi, Thailand.

That victory (which was somewhat expected from the multi-millionaire PBA All-Star selection), gave the country a ticket to the FIBA Asia Men?s Basketball Championships in Tokushima, Japan. There, at stake, is our country?s ticket to the Beijing Olympics in 2008. (FIBA is the international federation of amateur basketball associations. It governs the planet?s amateur basketball international competitions.)

Ever since the RP men?s cage team was formed a couple of years ago, the ultimate goal has always been to put the country back on the Olympic map in basketball. It was 35 years ago, in 1972, when the Filipinos last dribbled their way to the Games in Munich.

Coach Chot Reyes is tapped to make the Philippine dream come. A gargantuan task.

His program for our national cage team?s training was put in the back burner when the FIBA suspended the Philippines in 2005. It took more than a year for the ban to be lifted. During the ban, our basketball team could not even play in the SEAG games we hosted in 2005.

The announcement of the lifting of the ban made almost everyone rejoice. But Coach Reyes was subdued. He candidly told the basketball-crazy Filipino public that Philippine chances of winning a slot among the Asian countries qualified to play in the next Olympics are like climbing the Great Wall of China with one foot.

The RP 5 took fourth place in the FIBA Asia Club Championships in Tehran, Iran. This made PBA commissioner Noli Eala, seeing that the present Philippine team would not be able to get the job done in Japan, call for a review of the team?s composition. As fast as possible.

That gives us only two months to overhaul the RP 5 and to get it into championship shape and form?physically, mentally and psychically. Is it feasible? Will the overhaul be productive? We can never really tell.

FIBA lifted the suspension early in February and people are expecting in six months, Taulava, Seigle, Caguioa and company to rub elbows with LeBron, Kobe, Yao Ming, Ginobili, Nowitzki and Nash in the Beijing Games next year.

After the triumphant Thailand trip, Eala ordered the Pilipinas Basketball Team, including the coaching staff and sponsors, to ?regroup? and ?plot what?s the best? for the team to do. And Coach Reyes, though gladdened by his team?s 20-point win against Thailand, wryly said this RP 5 could not even beat a Chinese-Taipei team. He was only being realistic.

The ?last two minutes? call is now haunting the RP 5.

But the pursuit of the Olympic dream should continue. Basketball is the sports that most Filipinos love to watch and play. We could work to develop other sports that experts say more scientifically fit the Filipino build?like football. But we can?t just abandon basketball all of a sudden.

We may not qualify to take a glimpse of the Great Wall next year due to lack of time (and manpower?) but crossing the London Bridge in 2012 might be a viable target for the Filipino dribblers.

The effort to make it to the Olympics in London five years from now should start this very minute.
CHN - Frustrated Kazlauskas tells it like it is regarding Sun


GUANGDONG (FIBA Asia Championship) - A club-versus-country conflict has erupted in China where national team coach Jonas Kazlauskas has expressed misgivings about Sun Yue's decision to travel to America to showcase his skills for the Washington Wizards instead of preparing for the FIBA Asia Championship.

Kazlauskas, the hugely successful Lithuanian who led the Chinese into the last 16 of the FIBA World Championship last year, said Sun was hurting his chances of playing for the country at next year's Olympics by going to America.

The veteran boss said the player was in no way ready to play in the NBA and would be better off with the national team in the Far East, where they have been playing in a four nations tournament against Italy, Croatia and Australia.

Sun's club, the Beijing Aoshen Olympians, were so upset by Kazlauskas' remarks that they wrote to the Chinese Basketball Association demanding the coach apologise, only to be rebuffed by the CBA.

"The CBA always supports its players to go abroad for further development and Sun will join the draft with the permission of CBA," said the statement.

"As the head coach, Kazlauskas is entitled to comment on his players, his comments on Sun were subjective and responsible."

For his part, Kazlauskas claims comments made to the media were not fully understood, but he did not back down on his assessment of the 2.06m playmaker Sun, who averaged just under 12 minutes of action last summer at the World Championship.

"I am not defaming anybody," Kazlauskas said in the statement issued by the CBA.

"If you ask me which skill Sun needs to improve in terms of playing in the NBA, I'd tell you he needs an all-around improvement, because he is not strong enough to join the games there.

"This is not defamation, this is the reality that Chinese players have to face. If you don't want to accept the truth, how can you help the team to prepare for the Beijing Olympics?"

Kazlauskas also said he is in a very difficult situation coaching in a land where the language is completely different.

"I am in an embarrassing situation," he said. ?I don't know Chinese, and I don't how the Chinese media interpret my words."
Basketball is very popular in Philippines and it would be a big boost for them if they make it to the Olympics. It is nice a progress in Asian basketball.

It is true what Kazlauskas said. I heard that the club in which Sun Yue played wanted to start a trial against Kazlauskas. Doesn't have a coach of national team to say his opinion regarding its players especially when he describes the real situation.

United Arab Emirates - Great opportunity for UAE stars

UAE?s basketball stars Rashid Nasser and Talal Salim have been selected for a four-day international basketball camp to be held in Shanghai Sports Institute from July 5.

The camp, organised by FIBA, the world basketball governing body, in association with NBA, has been dubbed ?Basketball without borders Camp?Asia.? The camp will be attended by over 50 players from 17 countries in Asia with hosts China to be represented by 12 players. Six players will represent South Korea, Japan and Kazakhstan, five players each, Iran (4), India and Kyrgyzstan (3) each.

Ismail Gargawi, president of the UAE Basketball Association, while addressing the media to introduce the two UAE representatives, said: "This is a great honour and recognition by Fiba of the progress of the sport in the country." Gargawi thanked the clubs, trainers and officials who have been involved in the development of the sport in the UAE.

Abdullah Ansari, secretary general of the association, said this was the first time UAE players had been selected since Fiba introduced the programme in 2001. "This is a great opportunity for our players and we hope they will learn a few things during the camp. We are delighted and proud of that."

Ansari expressed the hope that the players would seize the chance to get acquainted with some of the top players to gain more knowledge of the game. "My advice to Nasser and Salim is that this is a great opportunity they have got and have to make good use of it. We want them to represent UAE in a good way," he added.

UAE national basketball coach, Zoran Zupcevic, was also happy with the selection of the two players from UAE. "This is a great opportunity and it does not happen all the time. Nasser and Salim are young and they can show their talent during the camp."

Zupcevic, from Bosnia and Herzegovina, explained that the two selected players would have the chance to interact with some of the top players in the world and learn a couple of skills also. "For me, it is very important for them to attend such a prestigious camp. There are many steps but this is the first one for them.

"They have to practise very hard to improve more on their game. I hope they will return with new skills," he said.

Among some of the top names that will attend the camp are China?s Yao Ming of Houston Rockets, former NBA star Scottie Pippen, Matt Carroll (Charlotte Bobcats), Chris Duhon (Chicago Bulls), Adonal Foyle (Golden State Warriors) and Luther Head (Houston Rockets).

The coaches, who will be supervising at the camp, are Wayne Chapman (Denver Nuggets), Gary Colson (Memphis Grizzlies), Dick Harter (former NBA coach), Jum Lynam (Philadelphia 76ers), Jay Jensen (Portland Trail Blazers. Dean Cooper of Houston Rockets is the camp director.

The media conference was also attended by Dr. Munir Ben Habib, technical secretary of the association, Hussain Hamadi and Abdullah Bilal