Talk ‘N’ Text will play in a three-way club competition in Seoul on Sept. 2-6 and with head coach Jong Uichico in the Gilas staff, assistant Bong Ravena is stepping up to fill the void. Uichico won’t be the only missing ingredient when the Texters play. Also seconded to Gilas are players Jayson Castro, Ranidel de Ocampo and Matt Ganuelas-Rosser and assistant coaches Josh Reyes and Nash Racela.
With a lot of absent pieces, it’s time not only for Ravena to show his wares but also the players to prove their mettle as the PBA season is set to start on Oct. 18. For sure, the Korea pocket tournament won’t be a cakewalk. Korea will be represented by three-time league champion Ulsan Mobis Phoebus coached by Jae Hak Yoo who piloted the national team to the gold medal at the Asian Games last year. China will also participate but it’s still not known which Chinese club will show up.
Uichico said 11 players are listed in the roster for Korea. The lineup may include whoever is picked by Talk ‘N’ Text in the draft on Sunday. The Texters will pick first overall and they’re tapping Moala Tautuaa for sure. The problem is Tautuaa has been added to the Gilas pool as an insurance import for Andray Blatche. Tautuaa and Blatche may play together at the Jones Cup on Aug. 29-Sept. 6 since the Taipei organizers aren’t restricted by FIBA rules which allow only one import. Although Tautuaa is half Filipino, he isn’t eligible as a local in the Philippine team because his Filipino passport was issued after he turned 16. If coach Tab Baldwin will keep Tautuaa in the Gilas pool, he won’t be available for Talk ‘N’ Text in Korea.
Two-time MVP Willie Miller has been released by the Texters and Jay Washington is still unsigned after his contract expired. If Washington comes to terms before the Texters leave, he could join the team in Korea.
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The 11-man cast is made up of Harvey Carey, Danny Seigle, Aaron Aban, Rob Reyes, Rob Labagala, Larry Fonacier, Ryan Reyes, Elmer Espiritu, newly signed Chris (Oping) Sumalinog of Ateneo, newly reacquired Larry Rodriguez and Raymond Aguilar. Sumalinog, a 6-1 guard, was the Texters’ fourth round pick and 36th overall choice in the 2013 draft. He has yet to make his PBA debut.
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Aguilar was undrafted in the 2009 stakes where another Aguilar, Japeth, was the No. 1 overall pick. The 6-4 power forward from National University played a game for Talk ‘N’ Text in the Philippine Cup last season, grabbing three rebounds and going scoreless in three minutes of a game against Barako Bull. Aguilar wasn’t the only undrafted player in 2009 to later enter the PBA. The others were Josh Urbiztondo, Bryan Faundo, Axel Doruelo, Jonathan Uyloan and Jonathan Parreno.
Rodriguez was in the trade package that Talk ‘N’ Text negotiated for Blackwater’s first round pick this year. The Elite gave up its slot for the Texters’ own first round berth and Rodriguez. In the coming draft, Blackwater will pick No. 9.
Son Dae Bum, editor of the monthly basketball magazine Jumpball, described Ulsan Mobis as the Korean version of the San Antonio Spurs. Coach Yoo, who steered South Korea at the FIBA World Cup in Spain last year, is the Korean Gregg Popovich. Ulsan has won the last three Korean league titles under coach Yoo.
“They are a very defensive team,” said Son, referring to Mobis. “Their best player is Dong Yang Guen who is the Korean national team’s starting point guard. Also, Ham Ji Hoon is one of the best post players. Fans gave his nickname ‘Ham Duncan’ because of his post moves. But Mobis lost its two best players, Moon Tae Young (Greg Stevenson) and Ricardo Ratliff, so I think they are weaker than last year.”
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Stevenson, whose mother is Korean, is the younger brother of Moon Tae Jong (Cameron Stevenson) who played on the Korean national team last year. Stevenson will now take over his brother’s spot with the national squad. He would’ve been eligible as a local but like in Tautuaa’s case, didn’t get his Korean passport until after turning 16. Stevenson, 27, is a 6-6 forward from Penn State and the University of Richmond.
Dong, 33, is a 5-11 deadshot while Ham, 30, is a burly 6-6 frontliner. They were on the Mobis team that blanked Dongby Promy, 4-0, in the best-of-7 Korean league finals last season. Dong had 22 points, six rebounds and five assists in the 81-73 title clincher.
Mobis will play its new import 6-9, 253-pound Leo Lyons of the University of Missouri in the tournament. Lyons, 28, raised his scoring clip every year at Missouri from 2.6, 7.4, 13.1 to 14.6 points as a senior. He has played in Israel, Ukraine, Turkey and Russia. Last season, Lyons averaged 21.4 points for Seoul and 15.7 points for Goyang in 59 total games in the Korean league.
New Korean national coach Kwang Dong Kim, who is half American, will lean on Dong to lead the troops at the FIBA Asia Championships in Changsha, China, on Sept. 23-Oct. 2. Kwang announced a 16-man national pool last July 15 and will trim the cast to 12 tomorrow. Korea recently lost a 79-76 decision to Chinese-Taipei in a friendly in Jincheon but didn’t suit up mainstays Stevenson, Kim Tae Sul and Cho Sung Min. Chinese-Taipei showed up with import Quincy Davis and reliables Tien Lei, Zeng Wending, Wu Taihao and Lin Zhijie. Korea is bracketed in Group C with Jordan, Singapore and China in Changsha.