Gilas sets sights on Angola as the next opponent

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Joaquin Henson – The Philippine Star

August 26, 2023 | 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines has a score to settle with Angola and revenge could come in their FIBA World Cup game at the Smart Araneta Coliseum tomorrow night. At the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China, Angola trimmed Gilas, 84-81 in OT and it could’ve gone the other way if only CJ Perez connected on a three-point shot with no time left in regulation. Perez is back in Gilas uniform with four other holdovers – June Mar Fajardo, Japeth Aguilar, RR Pogoy and Kiefer Ravena – itching to avenge the loss.

For Angola, it’s almost an entirely different cast from 2019. American coach Will Voight is gone and has been replaced by Spain’s Josep Claros whose resume lists national team stops in El Salvador, Mexico, Egypt and Bahrain and clubs in Canada, Japan, Spain, Portugal and Venezuela. The three holdovers are 5-10 Gerson Domingos, 27, 6-4 Gerson Goncalves, 27, and 6-6 Leonel Paulo, 37. Leading the charge for Angola are 6-9 NBA veteran Bruno Fernando, 25, 6-9 French-born Kevin Kokila, 21, 5-6 point guard Childe Dundao, 25, 6-10 Jilson Bango, 24, 6-9 Silvio de Sousa, 24, and 6-9 Antonio Monteiro, 34. Rounding up the roster are 6-2 Dimitri Maconda, 21, 6-7 Joao Fernandes, 30, and 6-7 Eduardo Francisco, 19.

Fernando is undoubtedly the man to watch. He was the Philadelphia 76ers’ second-round pick in the 2019 NBA draft from the University of Maryland and played for Atlanta, Boston and Houston in four seasons, earning $7.4 million. Last campaign, Fernando saw action in 31 games for the Rockets and eight for the Hawks, averaging 3.9 points, 3.5 rebounds and 10.4 minutes. Among his teammates were Serbia’s Bogdan Bogdanovic and Spain’s Usman Garuba, both playing in this FIBA World Cup. His NBA career single-game highs include 19 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists.

Paulo, the team’s senior statesman, played at the FIBA World Cup in 2010 and 2019 and the 2008 Olympics. He averaged 8.4 points and shot 70 percent from the field at the 2019 FIBA World Cup. De Sousa played on the U16, U17, U19 and U20 Angola national squads and was a mainstay at the FIBA U17 and U19 World Cups. He moved to the US before his freshman year in high school and went on to play at the University of Kansas and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Monteiro was born in Cape Verde and holds three passports. He played on the Portuguese U20 national squad and joined Angola in 2014 at 25. Maconda is a Dutch-Angolan cager who played on the Dutch U16 and U18 national teams and took Angolan citizenship last year at 20. Bango, a German leaguer, was on Angola’s U19 squad and averaged 9.7 points in nine games at the FIBA World Cup African qualifiers. Dundao is a lightning-quick, pint-sized quarterback who makes things happen for Angola. He’s dangerous when the ball’s in his hands because of his passing, driving and shooting ability.

Angola is no pushover and at the 2014 FIBA World Cup, beat South Korea, 80-69 and powerhouse Australia, 91-83. The Angolans are out to prove their win over Gilas in 2019 was no fluke. But weighing Angola down are consecutive losses to Mexico by two, Jordan by 14, Portugal by five and Japan by 10 in tune-ups leading to Manila.

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