Apparently, it won’t just be Alexander Zhigulin and the chilling weather in Astana that could stress out Gilas Pilipinas when they take on Kazakhstan in their last game of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers on Sunday.
The Nationals will also have to deal with the Kazakhs’ new naturalized player Anthony Clemmons.
The 6-foot-1, 24-year-old guard out of Iowa has been in Kazakhstan since 2017 playing for club team BC Astana. He made his debut with the national team just this sixth window when they took on the Australia Boomers.
The Kazakhs lost big, 60-81. But half of their output came from Clemmons, as he produced 31 points on 12-of-21 shooting from the field – on top of four steals and three rebounds – in the 36 minutes and 43 seconds he graced the floor.
“Of course, ang isang concern namin is si Clemmons, yung bago nilang player – their naturalized player,” Gilas assistant coach and head of scouting Sandy Arespacochaga told Radyo Pilipinas via phone patch interview.
Even if Kazakhstan lost via wide margin, Arespacochaga stressed that a player like Clemmons is definitely a game-changer with what he brings to the table.
“Definitely sa pagdagdag ni Clemmons, medyo may pagkakaiba na sa laro nila kasi si Clemmons is a very good scoring guard,” said Arespacochaga.
“He can play the point or the shooting guard position; magaling siya sa pick-and-roll, sa ball screens; he can score from the three-point area… at may midrange pull-up din. So ibang dimension ang idadagdag niya sa Kazakhstan.”
With this, the list of players that Gilas needs to contain has grown.
Aside from Clemmons, they also have their sights on Rustam Yergali – he had 10 points versus Australia – and the duo of Anton Bykov and Zhigulin, as they dealt the most damage to Gilas when they beat the latter, 88-92, here at home.
Bykov finished with 20 points and nine rebounds. Meanwhile, Zhigulin was the man of match as he produced 30 points – his best game of the Qualifiers yet, as he was just averaging over six points prior – built on six three-pointers.
“Ang gumawa kahapon si Clemmons at tsaka si Yergali. Pero nung kinalaban natin, sila ang gumawa… yung dalawa nilang malaki, si Zhigulin at si Bykov,” warned Arespacochaga, who joined the national team last January.
This is another obstacle Gilas has to hurdle; the Philippines is currently 6-5, but its World Cup hopes have taken a hit again after Jordan lost to China. So Arespacochaga hopes everybody will step up come Sunday.
“Nung kinalaban natin Kazakhstan, medyo nahirapan tayo sa pick-and-roll offense nila at sa transition game. Medyo dun tayo nahirapan. So kailangan maging maganda talaga yung defense natin laban sa kanila,” he said.
“Kailangan mag-step up lahat on defense. We really have to play defense as a team kasi Kazakhstan is a good offensive team, marami silang options.”