MANILA, Philippines – Gilas Pilipinas head Coach Chot Reyes is counting on Filipinos in Spain to replicate the atmosphere in the SM Mall of Asia Arena when the national team plays in the FIBA World Cup in Seville in two months.
The huge Filipino crowds that trooped to the MOA Arena in August 2013 played a huge role in the national team’s second-place finish in the FIBA Asia Championship -- something that Reyes readily admits.
"I thought that if we were competitive, then the crowd would tide us over and that is exactly what happened," Reyes said during the launch of the new Gilas Pilipinas kits last week.
"There were a couple of games that we shouldn't have won, but (with) the crowd, the adrenaline kicked in and allowed us to find a way to win," he added.
The 20,000-strong Filipino crowds who sang "Noypi" and "Rock You" to intimidate Gilas' opponents will most likely not be there when the national team plays in the World Cup, but Reyes is still expecting great crowd support.
"I'm not gonna be surprised if we're the most well-attended team, with the most fans in Spain, just from the number of people who are going, and the number of kababayans who are in Spain, in Barcelona and elsewhere," he said.
Reyes said he has heard of Filipinos who are planning to chart buses to "make the trip down to Seville."
"Hopefully, we are able to replicate MOA in Seville, in Spain," he said.
Gilas point guard LA Tenorio, for his part, vowed that they will still play their hearts out even if they are not being cheered on by a huge Filipino crowd.
"For me, personally, wearing the Pilipinas jersey is more than enough for us to be inspired to play," he said. "Kasi alam namin na maraming Pilipino talaga ang nanonood sa amin at sumusuporta sa amin, so I think that’s more than enough."
Gilas has been drawn into the tough Group B in the tournament, along with Argentina, Croatia, Greece, Puerto Rico and Senegal.
To prepare for the World Cup, Gilas will compete in the FIBA Asia Cup in Wuhan in July, hold a training camp in Miami, play in a four-nation tournament in Antibes, while also playing in tune-up games along the way.
Yet Reyes said these preparations are far from enough.
"Is it enough? No. Ten tune-ups is not even close to being enough to prepare us for the world championships, but it is what it is, and we have to take it," said Reyes.
The World Cup runs from August 30 until September 14.