MANILA, Philippines – With just over two weeks to go before they face Australia in the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers, the Philippine national team has yet to meet for daily practices.
Instead, Gilas Pilipinas continues with its once-a-week training sessions at the Meralco Gym. They have ramped up the intensity of their practices in the past two weeks, with coach Chot Reyes bringing in practice teams to simulate Australia's height and style of basketball.
Still, the coach acknowledged that once again, they are pressed for time.
"Hopefully, we get them (for daily practices) starting February 12, at least one week before we leave," Reyes told reporters on Monday, while stressing that they remain in constant communicate with the PBA and commissioner Willie Marcial.
"But again, that's going to have to be a determination made by the PBA," he added.
That they will be cramming to prepare for their February 22 game against Australia came as no surprise to Reyes.
"Sanay na tayo diyan, 'di ba," he said in an almost resigned tone, noting that when Gilas competed in the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup in Beirut, they only managed to get the complete roster together in Lebanon.
"It is what it is. Okay ba 'yun? Hindi. Of course, the more time, the better. Pero wala eh. That's out of our hands," he added.
The national team is also still waiting for naturalized center Andray Blatche, who has yet to be released by his team, the Xinjiang Flying Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA).
"The CBA, I think, will release its players only on the 12th or 13th," Reyes said. "We're trying to get his team to release him earlier, but I think the official CBA window is February 12-26, ang release ng players."
In the meantime, Reyes and the Gilas coaching staff are trying their best to prepare the national team for a powerhouse Australian squad that won its first two games of the FIBA qualifiers by an average margin of 31 points.
"We'll just continue to learn and get familiar attacking against bigger-sized players," said Reyes.
Gilas Pilipinas also won its first two games of the qualifiers late last year, but had a much tougher time than Australia. They got a close victory over Japan in Tokyo then rallied to take down Chinese Taipei at home.
After facing Australia at the Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne on February 22, Gilas will rush back to Manila as they host Japan at the Mall of Asia Arena on February 25.
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