FIBA: Reyes, Gilas brace for revenge-minded Koreans

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 11 2022 06:27 AM

Gilas Pilipinas head coach Chot Reyes. File photo.
Gilas Pilipinas head coach Chot Reyes. File photo.

MANILA, Philippines -- Gilas Pilipinas head coach Chot Reyes has no doubt that South Korea will be highly motivated when they play the Philippines in the upcoming FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers.

The Philippines and South Korea are in Group A of the qualifiers along with New Zealand and India. The first window is set for February 24-28 at the Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.

Already, South Korea has issued a warning, with veteran Kim Sun-hyung stressing that they want to avenge their losses to Gilas Pilipinas in the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers last year. Then, a young Philippine squad with no professional experience pulled off back-to-back wins against South Korea in Clark.

"This is going to be a different Korean team," Reyes said during the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum this week.

"They're fighting for qualification, 'di ba? Kailangan talaga nila manalo. Not only are they coming in for revenge, they're also coming in for qualification and survival, to get to the World Cup," he pointed out.

While Gilas Pilipinas is already assured of a spot in the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup as hosts, South Korea will have to go through the qualification process. They will need to finish in the Top 3 of Group A in order to advance to the second round of the qualifiers.

Thus, Reyes expects South Korea to come into the qualifying window with a more experienced team. In June 2021, Korea featured a younger squad bannered by naturalized center Ra Gun-a, but now they have called up their veterans, including Kim Sun-hyung, Kim Jong-kyu, Heo Hoon, and Heo Ung.

Kim Sun-hyung was part of the South Korea team that competed in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championships in Manila, and has also played in the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup.

South Korea's Kim Sun-hyung in action during the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
South Korea's Kim Sun-hyung in action during the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

"I think we're going to see a very different Korea team, we'll see a lot more veterans in this team, coming end of February," said Reyes.

Still, Reyes made it clear that his focus is on Gilas Pilipinas, especially as they got off to a late start in preparing for the upcoming window. The team was brought together in a camp just last week, with players from the TNT Tropang GIGA bolstering the pool.

"Ang focus ko muna, 'yung team natin. Ayoko muna masyado isipin. The time will come when our focus is going to shift on Korea," said Reyes.

"Ang ginawa lang namin ngayon, tiningnan namin kung sino 'yung mga pinadala, sino 'yung line-up nila. And now we're trying to figure out, sino 'yung mga players, what kind of team can match up well against not only Korea but even New Zealand and India, of course," he added.

"But in terms of talagang sizing them up and scouting them, hindi pa namin napapasukan ng husto."

The good news for Reyes and Gilas is that they already have a roadmap as far as South Korea is concerned. Still part of the team's coaching staff is Jong Uichcio, who was also part of Tab Baldwin's staff when they defeated Korea in the Asia Cup qualifiers last year.

"Right now, my plan is to use the Tab Baldwin game plan, kasi it worked. Ba't natin babaguhin 'yun, 'di ba?" Reyes said. "That's what Coach Jong is here for. We have the game plan on hand."

"But like I said, there will be a lot of different players this time, so we just have to be prepared," he also said.

The Philippines will play Korea on February 24 and again on February 28.