Mighty Sports leaves for Dubai today, with Filipino overseas workers in the tiny but oil-rich United Arab Emirates eager to see some of the players touted to become the future of Philippine basketball.
While former Ateneo star Thirdy Ravena, ex-NU standout Dave Ildefonso and UP’s Juan Gomez de Liano are excited to strut their wares, Filipino fans in the Emirates won’t see the 7’2” Kai Sotto, who is still in the US.
The team, meantime, regretfully announced that Sotto won’t be playing in the Dubai International Basketball Tournament due to unresolved logistical and scheduling issues on his part.
The Mighty Sports-Creative Pacific Team, however, assured its supporters here and in Dubai that the latest development was beyond its control and will not affect its chances since the team also backed Go-for-Gold, Gatorade and Oriental Game remains solid.
While coach Charles Tiu was saddened, he remains confident of the team’s strong chances, saying the team has enough firepower with the presence of naturalized Filipino Andray Blatche, veteran Renaldo Balkman, McKenzie Moore, Jelan Kendrick and Rain or Shine’s Beau Belga.
Other members of the team are Joseph Yeo, Jarell Lim, Jamie Malonzo, Javi Gomez de Liano, Joaqui Manuel, Gab Banal and the exciting Mikee Williams.
They will launch their title bid on Thursday against the national team of the host nation after landing in the five-team Group B.
After UAE, Mighty Sports will face Al-Itihad of Syria the following day at 11 p.m. on Friday before taking a break for two straight days.
“We’re all hoping we can bring more excitement to the Filipinos in the Emirates so we hope we can hurdle our first two games,” said team owner Alex Wongchuking.
Mighty Sports then resumes its campaign on Monday against the dangerous Rades of Tunisia before capping its elimination campaign against Beirut Sports Club at 1 .m. on Wednesday.
Tiu is convinced the other group —composed of defending champion Al Riyadi of Lebanon, Alexandria of Egypt, Sala of Morocco, Al Wathba of Syria, American University of Dubai and Lebanon’s Hoops Club—is probably a bit stronger.
“But it won’t matter cause in the crossover quarterfinals we will play them also. But what is important is everybody is excited and team is coming together,” said Tiu.