After successfully getting the services of three former NBA players and Fil-Am Sedrick Barefield, Strong Group has added Lebron Lopez and three other collegiate stars to its roster as it prepares for its title campaign in the 32nd Dubai International Championship from Jan. 27 to Feb. 5.
Apart from Lopez, team owner Jacob Lao announced the inclusion of UP’s Joel Cagulangan, Adamson’s Jerom Lastimosa and College of St. Benilde’s Miguel Oczon to the team that is out to keep the country’s dominance in the tournament that gathers the top club teams in the Middle East.
“We all know JD (Cagulangan) can make big shots and lead a championship team he’s been doing it for a while now,” said Lao. “I’m just excited for him to showcase his talents as he gets the chance to represent the country.”
Lao once expressed his gratitude to the Gilas management for allowing Lopez to suit up for the team that is determined to keep the crown to a Philippine club team. Mighty Sports completed a grand sweep of the title three years ago to become the first club team outside of the Middle East to win the event.
“Great talent. Still raw but we are hopeful we can give him the opportunity to improve himself and gain some experience,” said Strong Group coach Charles Tiu.
Tiu is likewise convinced the team is already good enough but his main concern, for now, is how to develop team chemistry with less than three weeks to prepare.
What excites Tiu is the presence of Cagulangan, Oczon, and Lastimosa in the team, saying: “I love shooting guards and we are thankful they (their schools) allow them to play for us.
“Hopefully they will improve further playing with and against some great players,” Tiu added.
The team is reinforced by former NBA star Nick Young, ex-PBA import Shabazz Muhammad and Renaldo Balkman, the same player who helped Mighty Sports win the title the last time.
Also named in the lineup are Korean Basketball League-bound Justine Baltazar, NCAA MVP and College of St. Benilde forward Will Gozum, and former Ateneo Blue Eagles BJ Andrade and Inand Fornillos.
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