Mighty Sports kicks off Merlion Cup title bid against Samsung Thunders

Mighty Sports coach Charles Tiu admitted they have their work cut out for them when the Philippine representative clashes with powerhouse Seoul Samsung Thunders in the opening day of the Merlion Cup in Singapore.

The youthful-looking coach said based on the scouting report and video tapes they got recently, the Thunders will surely be a handful due to the presence of some former South Korean national players, along with former Star import Ricardo Ratliffe, who will serve as one of Seoul Samsung’s reinforcements in the tournament.

“Mas worried ako sa Samsung. Siyempre that’s a strong team with experience plus their import, si Ricardo, solid iyun. And then they have a national player pa na may American-Korean (blood) and iba pang national players,” Tiu told FOX Sports, just before the team left for Singapore early Tuesday morning.

Mighty Sports will play the Samsung Thunders at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

READ: Ravena, Yeo huge addition to Mighty Sports says Coach Charles Tiu

The 6-foot-8 Ratliffe is no stranger to Filipino fans, having reinforced the Hotshots in the 2016 Commissioner’s Cup where he averaged 27.50 points, 18.12 rebounds, 2.38 assists and 1.25 blocks in eight games.

The 27-year-old Ratliffe has been a regular fixture in the Korean league, having led Mobis Phoebus to the 2014 William Jones Cup title, while capturing the tournament MVP in the process.

After the Koreans, Mighty Sports will go up against 2016 Asean Basketball League champions Westports Malasyai Dragons on Friday at 6:30 p.m.

“Malakas din sila (Dragons) and we haven’t seen these (Mighty Sports) guys play together so it’s been a challenge,” shared Tiu, who served as assistant coach when Mighty Sports scored an eight-game sweep of the 2016 William Jones Cup last July.

Since the PBA, NCAA and UAAP are all ongoing, the Mighty Sports mentor said they weren’t able to play a single practice game.

“Wala, zero (practice) so we just worked on some offensive sets, very simple because we don’t have time and we don’t want to complicate too much,” he added.

READ: Mighty Sports to benefit from Kiefer Ravena’s familiarity with system

The top two teams in the six-nation tournament advance to the knockout semifinals on Saturday, with the winners facing off in the one-game Finals on Sunday at 6 p.m.

The classification phase to determine the third to sixth places will start at 1 p.m.

Mighty Sports will be led by its three imports Hamady N’Diyae, Al Thornton and 2016 Jones Cup MVP Dewarick Spencers, ex-Gilas naturalized player Marcus Douthit, Fil-American playmaker Jason Brickman and Matthew Wright.

Top local players Joseph Yeo (loaned by GlobalPort) and former Ateneo star Kiefer Ravena will be there to provide the support, along with former Rain or Shine player TY Tang, ex-University of the Philippines star Edrick Ferrer, ex-Barako Bull forward Jason Deutchman, brothers Raphael and Gabriel Banal and ex-National University player Gelo Alolino. – Richard Dy

Follow this writer on Twitter: @richava


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