Coach Yeng Guiao and the Philippine basketball team are not thinking of the so-called “Korean curse” that the media have been floating around as hounding the Filipinos campaign in the sport their countrymen love most in the on-going 18th Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia
When Guiao and his men meet the Koreans today at 11 a.m. (Manila time) in the quarterfinal round, all they have in their minds is to win and make it to the Final Four on the way to the gold medal playoff and improve on the silver medal finish their predecessors fashioned out in 1990 in Beijing.
“It’s still a tough job as everybody thinks it is, but we’re ready for the Korea game,” Guiao declared in an interview with this writer on the eve of the crucial match on Sunday.
“The game plan is in place,” Guiao assured. “Execution will be crucial, but we’re prepared. We prepared for their shooters and their post option in Ratliffe.”
The mentor of the Northern Luzon Expressway team in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) was referring to South Korea’s naturalized slotman Ricardo Ratliffe who has been dominant in his previous outing for his team, averaging 23.3 points and 16.3 rebounds so far in the tournament.
“He’s their primary option,” Guiao observed. “They give him a lot of touches and he’s able to draw the double team or collapse the defense and that’s all that they need for their shots to go in, that small shooting window.”
“We’ll have to make a decision whether we double team him or we just play him single coverage cause if you double team or if you collapse, the other Korean players are going to get involved in the offense with the three-point shots,” Guiao said.
“We’ll be having practice sessions and hopefully, we in the coaching staff will have a decision on what to do against Ratliffe, and his teammates,” he added.
Ratliffe is no stranger to Filipino basketball fans having played two conferences with the Purefoods franchise in the PBA.
“The guys are excited to play and make the semis. They all want to make their countrymen proud,” Guiao asserted. “I told them to forget that curse. We’re not playing for what they believed (about ghosts) but for our country.”
While Ratliffe could be a big headache for the Filipinos, the Koreans will have to solve, too, the presence of Cleveland Cavaliers guard Jordan Clarkson for the first time.
Clarkson had a superb debut against China, tallying 28 points on 5-of-13 shooting from the three-point zone to go along with eight rebounds and four assists. The team is banking on Clarkson dominating the match up in the backcourt to offset Ratliffe’s advantage in the paint.
Guiao expressed hopes to see his boys to improve on their offense, particularly Stanley Pringle and Paul Lee, and defense in the persons of Christian Stanhardinger, Gabe Norwood, Beau Belga, JP Erram, Raymond Almazan and Paul Asi Taulava.
He said he also expects James Yap to be in perfect rhythm.
“Things are even this time unlike in our game against the Chinese who are way ahead in height and heft. Both teams are fast. It’s going to be a good game,” Guiao said.
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