Even with only a few practices, Strong Group head coach Charles Tiu is already pleased with what he’s been seeing so far from his team as it gears up for the Dubai 2023 International Championship.
With only a week left before the tournament starts on Jan. 27, Tiu and his crew, a perfect blend of veterans and young explosive players, are racing against time in their bid to keep the country’s dominance in the cagefest.
Strong Group, owned by Jacob Lao and backed by Mighty Sports and Acrocity Guiguinto, has been drawn in Group A of the tournament joining the United Arab Emirates national team, Al-Wahda from Syria, Dynamo from Lebanon and Al Nasr from Libya.
The youthful mentor was elated to see the team slowly take its form with the players shaking off cobwebs and the veterans also readily taking the leadership role.
“Team chemistry is slowly picking up. (Renaldo) Balkman has been our clear cut leader as always. They’re slowly getting in shape too. So that’s a good sign,” said Tiu, who happily revealed that even the 22-year-old team owner has been joining the team’s practice.
Some of the players have already given quite an impression for Tiu, particularly, Jerom Lastimosa and BJ Andrade who both immediately strutted their wares in practice along with fellow young guns Ange Kouame, Will Gozum, Justine Baltazar, Francis Lopez, Inand Fornillos, JD Cagulangan and Fil-Am guard Sedrick Barefield.
Even former NBA star Nick Young, who is housed at the Discovery Primea, is enjoying his first trip in Manila and looking comfortable with the team’s young guns.
“Nick was also impressed,” added Tiu.
“Man, Jerom Lastimosa is really good. Best point guard in college for sure. He’s so much better than I thought,” Tiu said of the King Falcon.
“Bj Andrade also has impressed me, great teammate, does a lot of the little things apart from being a great shooter. It’s no wonder Ateneo won all those championships,” he added.