SEA Games: Unstoppable Vic Manuel is ‘like Jokic,’ says Indonesia’s Toroman

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 10 2019 06:21 AM

To earn the Nikola Jokic comparison suggested by Indonesia coach Rajko Toroman, Vic Manuel says he needs to be better in passing. "Kulang na lang 'yung mga assists," Manuel says. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News; Ron Chenoy, USA Today Sports/Reuters

MANILA, Philippines—Indonesia head coach Rajko Toroman believes his side's game against the Philippines in the 30th Southeast Asian Games showed exactly what is keeping his national team from being competitive against the top team in the region.

After a promising first half, Indonesia fell apart in the third quarter. A hail of 3-pointers from Chris Ross, Marcio Lassiter and Matthew Wright allowed the Philippines to pull away, and the hosts won 97-70 to barge into the gold medal game.

"Congratulations to Philippines for the win. They deserve to go to the finals," said Toroman, who coached the first iteration of the Gilas Pilipinas team a decade ago. 

"They're the better team, but I have to say that I’m not disappointed with the performance of my team."

The Serbian coach commended his team for sticking to the game plan, outside of the crucial stretch in the third quarter wherein Ross knocked down back-to-back 3s to fuel a 16-0 Gilas run. 

Toroman had no illusions that beating the Philippines was a long shot, especially with the talent at Tim Cone's disposal. He noted that Gilas "have good chemistry and size," with Japeth Aguilar, June Mar Fajardo, and Greg Slaughter all playing together. 

They also had no answer for the other members of the Gilas frontline, notably Vic Manuel. The "Muscle Man," playing for the first time in a Gilas jersey, put up 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting while shrugging off every defender that Toroman put on him.

"You saw Manuel, Vic Manuel was like, I don't know, (Nikola) Jokic," said Toroman, referring to Denver's All-Star big man who picked the Philippines apart during the FIBA World Cup in September in China.

"We can't stop (Manuel) inside," he added. "For us, he was unstoppable. That’s what it is, that’s the reason we need a big guy who can dominate."

Manuel, meanwhile, just laughed when informed of Toroman's comment comparing him to Jokic.

"Jokic? Grabe naman 'yun. Chubby 'yun," he said in jest. "Grabe naman 'yun." 

"Siguro, kung magiging Jokic ako, kulang na lang 'yung mga assists," he added, miming one of the behind the back passes that the Denver big man is fond of doing. 

With Manuel scoring easily inside, Gilas put up 60 of their 97 points inside the paint, and shot 64.1% from the field in the game. Toroman said that to be truly competitive against the Philippines, his team needs to find a big man who can give them an inside presence to counter the Gilas frontline.

Indonesia hoped to find that in former Columbian Dyip import Lester Prosper, but his naturalization process could not be completed in time for the SEA Games.

"We also expected that we'll have one Indonesian-American player to join us, and with those two players, this team that we have now, I think it would be more competitive day by day," said Toroman. 

On Monday night, however, Toroman's team fell considerably short against the Filipinos, who are now just one win away from an 18th basketball gold medal in the SEA Games.

"We missed a little bit (of) talent, like Filipino players," he said. "They're more talented. But with the hard work and discipline that we showed today, I think that they will be, day by day, more competitive for Indonesia."

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