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Syria head coach Joe Salerno confident of new look for the Qasioun Eagles
DAMASCUS (Syria) - After closing out the first window of the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Qualifiers on a high note, Syria are hoping to ride that momentum - along with a few new changes - to success in the second window ahead.
Syria lost their first game of the Qualifiers to FIBA Asia Cup 2017 finalists Iran, but managed to bounce back by beating Saudi Arabia on the road in overtime. To say that it was an important victory might be an understatement.
“ I feel very good about [the team's chances of qualifying for the FIBA Asia Cup] - Joe Salerno
"The win against Saudi Arabia was huge for Syria Basketball," said Syria head coach Joe Salerno. "It has put us in a good position after the first window, and I think all of our players are aware of where we stand and the opportunity that we have moving into this second window."
"I think the once we arrive in Doha, a lot of those feelings will start to come back. Obviously it is unfortunate that COVID-19 interrupted play back in the spring, but I think a successful start to the second window would put our team right back in the same mentality it had following the Saudi Arabia win."
Syria will face Qatar in the first game of the window on November 28, before a rematch against Iran on November 30. The games will be played in Doha, Qatar along with all the games in Groups B (China, Chinese Taipei, Japan, Malaysia) and E (Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Syria). The team is currently deep in preparation for the two upcoming contest and Salerno is confident that they'll be ready when the time comes.
"I believe our players are feeling good about where we are currently at in preparation for our next window in Doha," Salerno stated. The American head coach was appointed to the position last month and is among one of the few changes Syria have made since the first window.
"Instilling confidence in our guys has been a main priority since I arrived with the team two weeks ago, and we continue to try and do that on a daily basis. I think all of our players are enjoying the new style of basketball we are trying to in-still, and as they continue to improve the confidence will continue to rise.
"By the time we arrive in Doha, I think all of our players will be in the right mindset and be ready to compete."
Most of the squad are expected to be ready to Window 2, specifically Window 1 hero Rami Merjaneh as well as Wael Jlilalti and Abdulwahab Al-Hamwi. Aside from the coaching change, Syria is also possibly ready to unleash a new unknown on the court in Trey Kell who has been named to their preliminary roster.
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Changes means adjustments that will need to be made and that's what coach Salerno has been emphasizing the team to do during these preparations.
"For us, in our training camp so much has been about focusing on us, our team and establishing what our identity will be."
"We are instilling new systems, new concepts and adding a new coaching staff and players. These things take some time to come together. So much about our preparation during our training camp needs to be about playing with consistency and learning these new concepts."
"The final two weeks of our camp will be more focused on preparation for our opponents in Doha, but first and foremost we have to be confident in how we want to play as a team."
When the time comes to take the court, Salerno expects Syria to be a whole different monster compared to what fans are accustomed to have seen in the past.
"Fans will see a bit of a different style of play. More up-tempo on the offensive end, and certainly playing with a new level of energy and communication on the defensive end. Looking to create transition scoring opportunities off of our defense is definitely something we will strive to do, and fans should keep an eye out for!"
If it wasn't clear from the start, Salerno is highly confident. Not merely confident in himself, but the confident in his team and how they will play. This will be important as the second window is a crucial stretch for all the teams that are looking to lock in that direct qualification to FIBA Asia Cup 2021.
"I feel very good about [the team's chances of qualifying for the FIBA Asia Cup]," he expressed.
"Again, I think we are in a good position after the first window, and with four games remaining in the qualifying rounds, I like our team’s chances to make it to Asia Cup 2021."
"It will be very important for us to get off to a good start and play well against Qatar in our first game of the second window. I think this will could be huge for our player's confidence and gaining all that momentum back that the team was feeling back in February."
Salerno and Syria are - or at least, will be - ready to showcase a revamped Syria basketball team in the upcoming window. The seasoned tactician is certainly confident that the fans will enjoy the new look.
But will their opponents be ready to handle it?