MANILA, Philippines - They’re not going to Spain in August to watch a bull fight, try its famous cuisine, troop to its crowded beaches or visit its ancient basilicas.
The Gilas players will be there to vie in the FIBA World Cup and if possible win a game or two.
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Manny V. Pangilinan has given members of Gilas Pilipinas, from the coaches down to the players, their marching orders.
“MVP (Pangilinan) told the whole team he does not want them to be tourists in Spain,” said SBP executive director Sonny Barrios yesterday.
“The target is to win at least two games and move to the next round,” added Barrios during the PSA Forum at Shakey’s Malate.
The former PBA commissioner did now say how they intend to do it. But he sounded confident that it can be done.
“He (Pangilinan) like all of us will be disappointed if we lose all five games (in the elims),” he said.
“The pessimists are saying it’s a waste because nothing will happen but that’s not the right attitude. We will not go there thinking that way,” added Barrios.
Only the best, the top 24 players in the world, will see action in Spain. Only three teams in Asia will be there – Iran, the Philippines and South Korea.
Barrios said the country’s chances will all depend on the draw on Feb. 3 in Spain.
“It’s a high target but depends on the grouping that we’re landing. You can only imagine if we are bracketed with the United States,” Barrios added.
Gilas head coach Chot Reyes, team manager Aboy Castro and logistics officer Andrew Teh will fly to Spain to witness the draw.
Gilas Pilipinas advanced to the FIBA World Cup by finishing second to Iran in the 2013 FIBA Asia Men’s Championship held at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The last time the Philippines saw action in the World Cup was in 1978 when it hosted the event. In 1986, the Philippines also qualified but wasn’t able to compete because of the Edsa Revolution.
The United States won the 2010 crown by beating Turkey in Istanbul. In 2006, Spain defeated Greece for the title as the Americans finished third.
Reyes, according to Barrios, is “burning the candles” making sure Gilas Pilipinas fields the best team possible for the World Cup.
The SBP is keeping its fingers crossed that the PBA and its teams can find a way to “pro-actively” support the campaign by loaning its best players.
“There are many ways to skin a cat. I hope the PBA can find a solution that will not hurt the league as much. If the PBA can only give us two months (with their players) it may be sufficient,” said Barrios.
“We will play the cards dealt to us. But we want to send the best team we can.”
Barrios said the Philippines already received an invitation from the Jones Cup organizers but the SBP “politely declined” because Reyes has already lined up a training sting in Europe in August.
By the time the Gilas players return from Spain, they will only have a couple of weeks to prepare for the Incheon Asian Games set Sept. 19 to Oct. 4.
“They only have a week to train and say ‘hello and goodbye’ to their families,” said Barrios.