MANILA - Gilas Pilipinas' preparation for the upcoming window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers has not been ideal, with a coaching upheaval and player availability issues wreaking havoc on their build-up.
But despite these issues, the group is still confident and swingman Dwight Ramos says he has high expectations of them heading into the window.
"I always have high expectations for our team. So of course, going into the window, I'm expecting us to go 4-0," Ramos told former PBA Commissioner Noli Eala on "Power and Play," Saturday.
Ramos was given the go-signal by his B.League team, the Toyama Grouses, to join Gilas Pilipinas for the upcoming FIBA window. Also joining the team from Japan is Thirdy Ravena of the San-En NeoPhoenix, while Juan Gomez de Liaño, who most recently played for Division 2 team Earthfriends Tokyo Z, was also called up.
They joined Ateneo center Ange Kouame, and Gilas draftees Tzaddy Rangel, Will Navarro, and Jaydee Tungcab in the core that will be bolstered by players from TNT Tropang GIGA. Chot Reyes will call the shots for the team after replacing Tab Baldwin as the head coach.
They will play a difficult schedule in the qualifiers, with four games in five days -- including rivalry match-ups against South Korea on February 24 and 27. They also play India on February 25, and New Zealand on February 27.
"Of course, it's very difficult within our time, our preparation time, and you know, our lack of players at the moment," Ramos acknowledged. "It's gonna be a hard job, but of course, you gotta set high expectations for yourselves, and that's what I'm hoping to do with our team."
Ramos was part of the youthful Gilas squad that swept the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers in Clark, Pampanga last year, claiming two wins against South Korea in the process.
The World Cup qualifiers are technically a non-bearing affair for Gilas, as they have already qualified to the FIBA World Cup 2023 as hosts. But the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) is still determined to field a competitive team, especially as the window is being held in Manila.
Ravena, who will be playing for Gilas in a FIBA event for the first time since February 2020, says they must embrace the pressure that comes with suiting up for flag and country.
"For us, dapat 'yung pressure, nanggagaling sa amin. Of course there's gonna be pressure, kasi sa Gilas, 'yung buong bayan 'yung dala mo, hindi lang isang team," he pointed out. "So 'yung buong bansa talagang manonood."
"But also as players, kailangan din namin i-challenge ang sarili namin. It's gonna be a tough four games" he acknowledged. "But it's no excuse. We're here, we're gonna play at home, so kailangan mag-take pride kami sa mga ganoong bagay."
"And hopefully, makakuha po tayo ng mga panalo in the window."
Gilas Pilipinas joined TNT in a training camp in Lipa, Batangas ahead of the resumption of the PBA season, though they are now back in Manila and training at the Moro Lorenzo Gym in the Ateneo de Manila University campus.
According to Ramos and Ravena, practices have been going well, and they are pleased with the progress that they are making.
"It's been great so far. I got to play with the other guys, the other Gilas guys again. Of course, Thirdy joined us, and I was playing with the Talk 'N Text team also. It's been fun playing with Coach Chot and his system," said Ramos.
"We're just getting used to everything, I think everything is going pretty well, so far," he added.