MANILA, Philippines – Gilas Pilipinas starts its three-month journey away from home Thursday, departing for Wuhan, China for a warm-up competition which hopefully helps the Nationals in a bid to have a decent showing in the FIBA World Cup and get a shot at the gold medal in the succeeding Asian Games.
Coach Chot Reyes and his team composed of naturalized player Marcus Douthit, nine PBA stars and two Gilas cadet players take an early morning Cathay Pacific to China, a day before the start of the fifth FIBA Asia Cup also participated in by regional powers China, Iran and Jordan.
The Philippines opens its campaign in the tourney versus Chinese Taipei at 2:45 p.m. Saturday, then goes up against Singapore at 2:45 p.m. Monday and finally coach Rajko Toroman and his Jordan team at 5:15 p.m. Tuesday.
The Nationals must make the Top Two in their group to advance to the crossover semifinals that will also feature the Top Two from the other group composed of China, Iran, Japan, India and Indonesia.
Gilas Pilipinas finished fourth behind Iran, Jordan and Qatar in this tourney in Tokyo, Japan in 2012.
“We’re not expecting much because by the time we play in China, we’ve only had nine practices and you know that we don’t have the full team,” said the Gilas coach on the sideline of their sendoff ceremony at Max’s Restaurant in Roxas District, Quezon City Tuesday night.
“I like our lineup but we don’t have the chance to be at our best because of the limited practices that we had. We have young guys (Garvo Lanete and Kevin Alas) and I’m intrigued and want to see Jay Washington, Paul Lee and Beau Belga in actual (international) competition,” Reyes also said.
The Nationals won’t mind not winning the FIBA Asia Cup, as everybody knows a win or two in the Worlds, and the Asian Games gold medal are what they’re aiming for.
“We just want to be able to get back to what I called the grind of international game. That is needed for the mental and emotional standpoint of the players,” said Reyes.
From China, Reyes and the Nationals return home practically just to repack their bags for their trip to America and Europe where they step up their buildup for the World Championship set Aug. 30-Sept. 13 in Spain.
Reyes is realistic of their chance in the world joust. “We have two chances – slim and none.”
Reyes stressed, though, that they will fight hard not just for the silver but gold medal in the Asian Games in Incheon, Korea in September.
“If we can get Andray Blatche playing comfortably and well with our team, then I think we’ll stand a very good chance,” said Reyes.
“Remember last year in FIBA Asia, we competed even as we didn’t have Marcus Douthit in the final game against Iran,” Reyes also said. “Hopefully, with a full lineup, whomever we play, we make the semis then the finals.”
Reyes then asked: “When was the last time we won the Asian Games basketball gold medal?” 1962?
“(To end that drought). That’s the target,” Reyes said.