The road to the title will be littered with challenges when Rain or Shine competes in the William Jones Cup starting 12 August at the Taipei Heping Basketball Gymnasium in Taipei.
Powered by naturalized player Ange Kouame and journeyman Nick Evans, the Elasto Painters will be facing reigning Korean Basketball League champion Anyang KGC as well as some Middle Eastern squads in the prestigious invitational tourney.
Anyang, which is the same team that Rhenz Abando led to the Korean League title, will be reinforced by Du’vaughn Maxwell, who played two seasons for the Fuel Masters in the Philippine Basketball Association.
Abando, for his part, was included in the Anyang roster but will not suit up as he is still with the Gilas Pilipinas squad that is preparing for the FIBA Basketball World Cup that the Philippines will host from 25 August to 10 September.
Also vying in the tourney that is making a return after a three-year hiatus are the national squads of Iran, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Chinese Taipei as well as the national U22 team of Japan and a club team from the United States.
United Arab Emirates, Chinese Taipei and Qatar, meanwhile, will be using the tourney to prepare their players for the 19th Asian Games that will be held in Hangzhou, China from 23 September to 8 October.
Rain or Shine assistant coach Caloy Garcia, however, doubts the possibility of the Iranians parading their Team A since most of their national players are competing in various pocket tourneys around Europe and Asia as part of their World Cup preparation.
Tipped to miss the Jones Cup for the Iranians are Olympians Hamed Haddadi and Arsalan Kazemi as well as veteran Behnam Yackchali.
Even rising star Mohammad Amini will not be part of the roster as the Iranian national squad will be seeing action in a four-nation pocket tourney in Georgia from 12 to 14 August against countries like Georgia, Montenegro and Jordan.
“This team is World Cup-bound so I doubt if they will send their Team A,” Garcia, the top deputy of Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao, said in a telephone conversation with Daily Tribune.
“That’s why Gilas are playing Team B of Iran in a pocket tournament in China since the best players are playing in Europe and different countries in Asia.”
But Garcia is curious how their new import — Evans — will perform against elite competition.
Listed 6-foot-10, Evans will arrive on 6 August and will use this tourney as some sort of a roster spot tryout for the Elasto Painters for the coming PBA season.
He will be paired with 6-foot-10 Kouame, who is already very familiar with the Filipino brand of basketball after powering Ateneo de Manila University in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines.
“He’s a big man who can shoot and can defend well,” Garcia said, referring to Evans.
“We would like to see if he can fit into our system. He’s listed 6-foot-10, but we want him to be measured again, so if he passes the test and he will be a good fit to our system, then we can bring him in as an import for the coming season.”
The PBA kicks off its Commissioner’s Cup in October featuring imports who are not taller than 6-foot-9.