June 6, 2016
Countdown to Manila OQT: 29 days
Gilas Pilipinas head coach Tab Baldwin expects a tough battle from Iran when the two Asian sides clash in back-to-back tune-up matches tomorrow and on Wednesday.
“They’re going to be tough for us the next couple of days. They’re a little further in their preparation than we are because they’ve already played in one FIBA event. This is going to be good learning for us and that’s what we’re doing it for,” Baldwin said on Monday.
More than winning, the Gilas mentor wants his troops run their system and use the two tune-up matches as a gauge to see if the squad already has a good grasp of their style of play.
“The results are secondary, but the results of how we play are very important,” Baldwin said.
The tune-up up match on Tuesday will be a closed-door, coach-controlled tune-up and the other will be played at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum the next day.
Iran will be parading a young core in the two exhibition games. Marquee names like Samad Nikkhah Bahrami, Mehdi Kamrani, and Hamad Haddadi, who have been responsible for Iran’s rise in the Asian basketball scene over the past decade, will not be suiting up for the team in the back-to-back tune-up matches.
Baldwin, however, said that even if Iran has a younger roster, they will be competitive.
“I don’t think they’re rebuilding because they have an extremely strong frontline, very experienced, very talented, and very rugged frontline. I think we will get the brunt of that,” Baldwin said.
“When you’ve got (Arsalan) Kazemi and (Oshin) Sahakian, and the other two guys, these guys are bangers, all of them. They’re tough guys,” said of Iran’s two veterans.
“They’re guard lineup is a little bit thin right now, but very talented and I think what Filipinos will see is you may expect them to be less because of Bahrami not there, but with (Mohammad) Jamshidi and (Behnam) Yakhchali, these are two exceptional young players. This is going to be a good Iranian team.”
Iran will be participating in the Turin Olympic Qualifying Tournament, which features host squad Italy, Greece, Mexico, Tunisia, and Croatia.
Baldwin added Iran’s head coach, German national Dirk Bauermann, knows how to handle and lead the West Asian squad.
“Coach Bauermann, he’s doing what he’s supposed to do: he’s downplaying his team because he’s lost some veteran leadership in Kamrani and (Bahrami), but he’s a wise, old coach and he’s been around for a long time, so he knows what he’s doing,” he said.
“He’s going to be challenging these young guys to perform. He already did at WABA. He’s not going to the OQT to lose. He’s going there to give it their best shot and he’s going to have a strong team.”
Iran last lost to the Philippines in the second round of the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship, 87-73.