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NBA stars that Gilas greats are excited to watch at World Cup

August 25 ------ THEY’RE stars in their own right, but like the rest of basketball-loving Filipinos, Gilas legends Jeff Chan, Larry Fonacier, and Gary David are looking forward to seeing some of the world’s best basketball players come the 2023 FIBA World Cup. Luka Doncic, Anthony Edwards, and Karl Anthony Towns are some of the names the three former national team stalwarts rattled off when asked who among the cage stars coming over they would want to see play in the flesh once the quadrennial showcase officially kicks off on August 25.

Doncic, the sensational Dallas Mavericks guard who banners Slovenia, tops Chan’s short list along with the 7-foot Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Chan actually wanted to see Canada’s Jamal Murray, but the champion player from Denver begged off from competing to fully recover from a demanding season that saw him win his first ever NBA crown with the Nuggets. “Nalungkot nga ako,” he admitted on stage during the Manila Leg of the Naismith Trophy Tour at the SM Mall of Asia Atrium on Sunday.

He then mentioned Towns instead, noting the Dominican Republic big man will serve as the first opponent of Gilas Pilipinas in the opener at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan. David also had the 24-year-old Doncic among his must-watch players in the World Cup. “Lahat naman ng tao gustong makita maglaro si Luka,” he noted.

Now a councilor in Dinalupihan, Bataan, the 45-year-old four-time PBA scoring champion added Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards of the US and shooting big man Lauri Markkanen of Finland, who is a teammate of Gilas Pilipinas naturalized player Jordan Clarkson with the Utah Jazz. Fonacier, now team manager of the NLEX Road Warriors, also had Markkanen in his choices, but named veterans Bogdan Bogdanovic of Serbia and Spain’s Rudy Fernandez among his favorites.

The 6-foot-5 Bogdanovic of the Atlanta Hawks was described by Fonacier as the player with the best shooting form in all of the players coming over. “I can’t wait to see him shooting in front of us,” said the gunner from Ateneo. “Tumagal siya ng ganun and stayed very effective,” said Fonacier of the 38-year-old Fernandez, who is with the Spanish national team since 2006 and part of the unit that won the championships in the 2006 (Japan) and 2019 (China) editions of the World Cup. Like David, Fonacier can’t also wait to see the 7-foot Markkanen up close and personal. Of the players mentioned, Towns and Edwards are both playing the group stage in Manila, while Doncic and Markkanen will be in Okinawa, Japan, and Fernandez in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Slovenia is in Group F with Cape Verde, Georgia, and Venezuela, while Finland is in tough company with Germany, Australia, and host Japan in Group E. Spain is in Group G with Brazil, Ivory Coast, and Iran. Any of those teams advancing to the knockout stage will be travelling to Manila for the knockout phase from Sept. 5-10. By then, Chan, David, and Fonacier will finally get to see the players they want to watch.



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