MANILA, Philippines – For national team head coach Chot Reyes, it is not out of the question for Gilas Pilipinas to pull off a couple of surprises when the national basketball team competes in the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain this August.
Reyes, who was in Spain when the draw for the World Cup was conducted, told Joaquin Henson of The Philippine Star that Gilas can join the list of teams that have been able to stun other higher-ranked teams in international competitions.
“Egypt was a surprise qualifier in FIBA Africa, and Finland came from nowhere to beat several giants in FIBA Eurobasket last year,” Reyes said.
“Let’s not forget how Gilas defied the odds to finish second in FIBA-Asia. It’s no longer surprising for surprises to come in international basketball competitions,” he added. “Going back to the 2002 World Cup, New Zealand placed a surprising fifth.”
“Who knows? Maybe the Philippines will be the surprise of this year’s World Cup.”
Gilas was drawn in Group B, along with Argentina, Croatia, Greece, Puerto Rico, and Senegal.
Reyes admitted that the draw “could have been better,” but “we can’t complain, because it could have been worse.”
Two victories in the group round will place Gilas in the round-of-16, where they will take on the top placer in Group A.
“We need to score an upset in our first four games, then go for fourth place against Senegal to make it to the knockout round-of-16,” said Reyes.
“All we need is one good game where our naturalized player dominates, our shooters are on target, and we hold our own in defense. If we win that one game in our first four, we’ll go for it against Senegal,” he added.
The schedule does not do Gilas any favors. They play for three consecutive games against Croatia, Greece and Argentina, before taking a one-day break and winding up their group round campaign against Puerto Rico and Senegal on back-to-back days.
But Reyes and Gilas welcome the challenge and are already looking forward to playing in front of the Filipinos who will troop to Seville to watch the World Cup.
“We’re excited to play in Seville, where we hope to bring over at least 1,000 Filipino fans,” said Reyes.