By Kevin Sox
No less than famed international head coach Rajko Toroman, the 1st ever coach of the Smart Gilas program, said the Philippines has what it takes to beat a team like Italy in the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup in China which tips off in late August.
Toroman, who will be coaching Philippine club team Mighty Sports in the 2019 Jones Cup in Taiwan, shared that if the Philippines catches Italy on a bad night and play great, there might be a possibility of an upset.
“I think there’s a bigger chance to beat Italy than Serbia. Italy has two NBA players, (Marco) Belinelli who is a bit older and (Danilo) Gallinari, but they have some Euroleague players as well. But if I see some chance, that’s definitely Italy,” said Toroman via ESPN5.
The Philippines is in Group D of the World Cup along with Serbia, Italy, and Angola. Only the top two teams will advance to the knockout stages, meaning Gilas Pilipinas will have to win at least twice to give them a good positioning to make it to the next round.
Serbia would be a much daunting task, according to Toroman, as the world no. 4 squad has the likes of Nikola Jokic, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Boban Marjanovic, and Milos Teodosic.
“They will play with five NBA players and seven Euroleague players. They will have Nikola Jokic, who is officially the best big man in the NBA. I’ve always said that this guy broke all the NBA rules that you have to be tall, athletic, quick. He’s the total opposite of that. But he’s the smartest guy and he’s an excellent, excellent player,” said Toroman.
Toroman coached Gilas from 2009 to 2011, leading them to a semi-final finish in the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship which jumpstarted further success for the national team in the next years.
He has also coached teams like Iran, which he led to the 2008 Olympics, and Jordan from 2014 to 2016.