DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Team Mighty Sports-Philippines arrived in this ultra-modern metropolis on Thursday oozing with confidence that it will get the job done this time in the 30th Dubai International Basketball Championships.
Handled by Charles Tiu and beefed up by three American reinforcements that include former Los Angeles Lakers star Lamar Odom, Mighty Sports is seeking to redeem itself after a forgettable debut two years ago when it only had one victory to show in eight matches.
The apparel and accessories team will have an immediate chance to prove it is as good as advertised when Mighty Sports raises the curtains in the prestigious 10-team tournament against fellow Group A member American University in Dubai on Friday night at 7 p.m. (11 p.m., Manila time) inside the Shabab Al Ahli Club.
“We barely have any scouting report on who we will be facing right on the opening day but I am optimistic that we are more than ready to do well to make our kababayans here proud,” said Mighty Sports team owner Alex Wongchuking.
The Mighty Sports-Philippines will be reinforced by resident Barangay Ginebra import Justin Brownlee and Chinese league veteran Randolph Morris.
“I am expecting nothing less than a tough grind. Every game here is important so we have to keep our collective focus on the task at hand. How we will perform in the first game will set the tone for our campaign,” said Tiu, younger brother of recently retired Rain or Shine star guard Chris.
Mighty Sports will barely have 24 hours to recharge and recover as it takes on host UAE national team on Saturday night, also at 7 p.m., before it squares off with formidable Homenetmen-Lebanon on Sunday at 9 p.m.
The Philippine-based squad will finally get a breather on Monday before it closes out its preliminary round campaign against Al Wahda-Syria on Tuesday at 9 p.m.
Pooled in Group B are Al Riyadi-Lebanon, Sports Club Beirut-Lebanon, Sala-Morocco, Al Nift-Iraq and the Jordan national team.
The 10 protagonists are divided into two groups and will figure in single-round preliminaries. Only the Top 4 teams from each side will advance to the knockout stages, starting with the crossover quarterfinals on Thursday, February 7.
The winners of those pairings will make it to the semis on Friday and the two survivors will figure in a winner-take-all showdown on the final day on Saturday, February 9.
Fast-rising University of the Philippines guard Juan Gomez de Liano is expected to gain a share of the spotlight while ABL veteran playmaker Jason Brickman is excited to repeat his solid showing that helped Mighty Sports clinch the Jones Cup title via an eight-game sweep back in 2016.
Touted Fil-Am recruits Jeremiah Gray and Roosevelt Adams are sure to strut their wares while former pros Joseph Yeo, TY Tang and ex-Gin King stalwart Jett Manuel are determined to make their presence felt too.
Collegiate standouts, such as La Salle’s Santi Santillan, St. Benilde’s Justin Gutang and National University’s Troy Rike, can also provide ample contributions together with amateur league star Gab Banal.
Former national team mentor and multi-titled PBA tactician Jong Uichico will serve as Charles Tiu’s deputy along with former Xavier star Woody Co and Ateneo’s Dean Castano, with Edrick Ferrer serving as the assistant team manager. (PR)