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Hot Mexicans test Filipinos’ mettle

THE Mexican men’s basketball team arrives at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 on Saturday to compete in the FIBA Basketball World Cup. (Photo from MexBasquet IG

Mexico is tipped to push Gilas Pilipinas to the limit when they clash in a friendly duel for the FIBA Basketball World Cup that starts on Friday at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan.

The Mexicans and Gilas clash in a closed-door encounter on Monday night at Philsports Arena with the Filipinos looking to use the battle as a gauge to plot their final roster for the prestigious 32-nation tournament.

Mexico will be a good test for Gilas.

They have won all of their five matches in the Gira Nacional while beating Columbia and Argentina in pocket tournaments.

Then, the Mexicans won two more games over Angola and Portugal in the King’s Cup in Jordan before bowing to the home squad 86-72.

The Mexicans rediscovered their winning ways over the past week as they nipped Egypt, 77-71, before clobbering Lebanon, 88-70, in Abu Dhabi before flying to Manila for the final leg of their preparation on Saturday.

Gilas coach Chot Reyes knew that the Mexicans had built a winning reputation so they are in for a heavy workout, which is what they exactly need as they head for their opening battle against the Dominican Republic.

After all, most of the Mexican cagers played in Europe, including Pako Cruz, a 6-foot-3 guard who played in eight games in the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers with averages of 17 points and 3.9 assists per game.

He also spent his past few years campaigning in the tough Turkish league.

Other members of Team Mexico, which will be handled by Omar Quintero are Paul Stoll, Jorge Gutierrez, Orlando Mendez, Hector Hernandez and Israel Gutierrez, who are all members of the team that campaigned in the 2014 World Cup in Spain.

Stoll is a 5-foot-11 Mexican-American guard, who became an assist leader in the Mexican League last year while 6-foot-3 Gutierrez used to play in the National Basketball Association for the Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks and Charlotte Bobcats before having a pitstop in
the NBA G League and eventually settling down a career in Europe in Turkey.

Guttierez also played in Italy, Spain, Germany and Greece before returning to Mexico in 2021 while Mendez is a six-foot guard who played for Western Kentucky in the US NCAA Division 1.

Hernandez is a bruising 6-foot-9 forward who played along with Mendez in winning the FIBA Americas League championship more than a decade ago, while the other Gutierrez, Israel, is also a 6-foot-9 center.

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