MANILA, Philippines -- The members of the Gilas Pilipinas pool were disappointed after the FIBA Asia Cup qualifying window was once again rescheduled, but the team remains in high spirits and ready to play when needed.
This, according to Butch Antonio, the director of operations of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) who maintained that the recent upheaval regarding the qualifiers is but a small step back for the program.
"There was disappointment. They've spent the past, what, three, four weeks (training) doon," said Antonio during a recent appearance on "Power and Play" with former PBA commissioner Noli Eala.
"Talagang nagpe-prepare sila. Wala silang ginawa kung 'di mag-prepare. They would practice two times a day para lang makapag-prepara para dito sa ating games in Doha," he added.
The national team pool, which included six PBA players, has been training at the Inspire Sports Academy since mid-January to prepare for the third and final window of the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers that was supposed to be held in Doha, Qatar.
But the city withdrew as hosts due to rising COVID-19 cases, only for FIBA to re-assign hosting duties back to the Philippines. The SBP was the original host of the qualifying window before they also had to withdraw as the government had imposed a travel ban.
At the moment, the Philippines' hosting of the FIBA window is still being worked out. The Department of Health on Monday said it will be up to the Inter-Agency Task Force to give the go-signal to the SBP and other relevant agencies.
Nonetheless, Antonio said the Gilas Pilipinas program remains on track.
"Sila Coach Tab (Baldwin) naman have lined up a program. Ang program naman ng isang koponan, alam mo 'yun, hindi lang naman para sa right now ang tinitingnan," he said. "Mahaba 'yang programa."
"It's a program that will run all the way up to 2023," added Antonio, referring to the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup that the Philippines will co-host with Indonesia and Japan.
"So eto, it's a momentary setback, but it's a continuous program."
The Gilas players have since exited their bubble at the Inspire facility while waiting for further details on the qualifiers.
Still, the past few weeks were not in vain as it allowed the team to develop their chemistry and learn the system that they will use, said Antonio.
"Talagang sayang, hindi natuloy 'yung games," he acknowledged. "Pero ang maganda dito, they still had time together, building team philosophies."
"And ano 'to, hindi lang 'yung practice na nag-uuwian. They actually spent time together. They ate, slept, and did everything that was basketball 24/7 for some time. Maganda 'yun," he added.
In the meantime, the SBP will make the "proper coordination" with other government agencies to ensure that the hosting of the window will push through.
"We have to make representations with the IATF, just to make sure that everything is coordinated properly," said Antonio.