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MEASURING MONTENEGRO | Gilas test mettle against Euro powerhouse

KAI Sotto (right) and Jordan Clarkson, make a good first impression in their first game back for Gilas. | PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF FIBA

After running roughshod over Ivory Coast, Gilas Pilipinas takes on Montenegro, a small Balkan state whose assembly line regularly produces National Basketball Association and European league standouts, in the second of three tuneup games before the FIBA World World Cup.
Fresh from scoring an 85-62 demolition of the Ivorians in Friday, Gilas will have to ramp it up once again as the Montenegrins are parading a roster spiked with Nikola Vucevic, the 6-foot-10 center from the Chicago Bulls.

A two-time NBA All-Star, Vucevic has been a stalwart in the big league throughout his career since being selected 16th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in 2011.

He has been a consistent double-figure producer in any NBA team he had played for, averaging 17 points and 10.5 rebounds his entire career.
Vucevic is just one several big men Gilas will have to deal with as Montenegro also has Boblan Dubljevic, Nemanja Radovic and Marko Simonovic.

Dubljevic, listed 6-foot-9, was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2013 Draft, but didn’t pursue an NBA career as he had more success playing in the European circuit.

For nine years, he had a great season playing for Valencia where he had career averages of 11.9 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.

Radovic, a 6-foot-10 center/forward spent time playing in Serbia and Spain.

His last team at UCAM Murcia saw Radovic averaging 10.4 points and 5.8 rebounds per game in the Spanish League.

Simonovic, a seven-foot, 23-year-old center, played briefly for the Chicago Bulls last year and even saw action for the Bulls in the NBA Summer League, but went on to sign with Crvena Zvezda, a Serbian powerhouse club.

Despite the lopsided win over the Ivoriana, two-time winners of AfroBasket, Gilas head coach Chot Reyes and the coaching staff know they can’t afford to do the same thing against their world No. 18 rivals.

“We had 18 turnovers (against Ivory Coast) and that’s something we have to address. But I thought we shared the ball very well. We came up with great intention of moving the ball and finding each other and that for me is important,” said Reyes.

Jordan Clarkson and Kai Sotto, who blended well with his Gilas teammates, had solid games in their first game back.

The game with Montenegro will be used by the Gilas think-tank as a gauge as the Filipinos are grouped with another European powerhouse and world No. 10 Italy, in Group A.

The third and final friendly match Gilas will play will be against world No. 31 Mexico on Monday.

The FIBA World Cup comes off the wraps this Friday at the Philippine Arena with Italy meeting Angola in the first game at 4 p.m. and Gilas tackling Dominican Republic, ranked 23rd in the world, at 8 p.m.

The Dominicans posted a 94-88 victory over world No. 15 Canada with Karl Anthony Towns banging in 20 points and grabbing six rebounds in upsetting the NBA-flavored Canadians.

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