MANILA, Philippines – When pressed to predict their chances in the coming 2014 FIBA World Cup of Basketball, Philippine national team coach Chot Reyes chose to be blunt.
“We have two chances, slim and none. That's as honest as I can put it,” the Gilas team coach told a group of sports writers shortly after the send-off party for the national basketball team.
He said the competition will be tough, as they were grouped together with some of the most competitive teams that qualified in the FIBA Worlds.
Gilas Pilipinas, which qualified for the competition via a sensational second-place finish in the FIBA Asia Championship last year, is grouped with Senegal, Puerto Rico, Argentina, Greece, and Croatia.
Of the 5 teams, only Senegal ranks lower than the Philippines in the FIBA men's rankings. Senegal is listed No. 37, while Gilas is ranked 34.
Despite the low ranking, he said Senegal has 3 players that compete in the NBA.
“[They have a] very deep line up. All their NBA guys are there, there's a couple of guys in US NCAA Division 1, they will also be in Spain early August in Malaga. We will take a good hard look on them,” he said.
He said the third-lowest ranking team in the group, Puerto Rico (No. 17), boasts of an all-NBA starting lineup.
“Their 6th man is an MVP of the NCAA, Shabazz Napier who was a first round [NBA Draft] pick. So you know that's a strong team,” said Reyes.
Croatia ranks No. 16 in the world, while Greece and Argentina are listed at No. 5 and No. 3.
But this doesn’t mean that Gilas will play dead against those teams, Reyes said.
“My belief is bilog ang bola, eh. We will always find a way and hopefully we can find that,” said Reyes.
He said that preparation, along with courage, will be their key in beating their much taller foes.
The national team's sponsors also believe that Gilas’ trademark “Puso” will take the squad to great heights despite the odds.
Among the sponsors who support Gilas’ cause are Nike, Max’s Restaurant, Master, Milo Energy Drink, Smart Communications and Meralco.
Gilas will start its preparations at the FIBA Asia Cup that will begin on Friday in Wuhan, China.
However, they will play minus San Mig Coffee’s Marc Pingris and Rain or Shine’s Jeff Chan, Gabe Norwood, Beau Belga, and Paul Lee who are all participating in the PBA Governors' Cup finals.