MANILA, Philippines -- The upcoming friendlies against South Korea will be crucial for the development of the young Gilas Pilipinas players, stressed national team head coach Chot Reyes.
With the PBA currently in the midst of the All-Filipino Cup, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) called up a slew of amateurs to represent the country in a pair of exhibition matches against South Korea this month.
Back in the squad are RJ Abarrientos, SJ Belangel, Geo Chiu, Dave Ildefonso, Ange Kouame, Francis Lopez, Will Navarro, and Carl Tamayo, all of whom played in the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers last year. Making their debuts are reigning NCAA Most Valuable Player Rhenz Abando of Colegio de San Juan de Letran and incoming De La Salle University center Kevin Quiambao.
Japan-based professionals Kiefer Ravena and Dwight Ramos are the veterans of the team that will play South Korea on July 17 and 18 at the Anyang Gymnasium in Gyeonggi-do.
"Matagal na natin naman gusto talaga 'yung line-up ng mga bata, 'di ba. We want to have a lot of young guys to see who can make it into the final line-up in 2023," said Reyes. "So this was an excellent opportunity."
"From the Korea friendlies and this upcoming window, we're going to know a lot about the guys who are there in that line-up," he added.
The games against Korea will be part of the Philippines' preparation for the third window of the FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers, where they will play New Zealand and India. Most likely, SBP will call up the same group to compete in the window.
Reyes acknowledged that the upcoming games will be tough for the young Gilas squad, but he believes that this is exactly what they need to prepare them for more important tournaments ahead -- including, possibly, the FIBA Basketball World Cup next year.
"The whole objective of this entire process is to assemble the best possible team for 2023, for the World Cup next year. So 'yun, this is all part of the process," Reyes explained.
"Sometimes, we're going to lose, matatalo tayo. We're going to lose big, maybe, but at least nasasabak 'yung mga players na mga bata. Because that's the best way to see, for them to taste international competition," he pointed out.
"They're going to New Zealand, they're going to play a very veteran team who's playing at home. What can be a bigger challenge for Carl Tamayo, SJ Belangel, Ange Kouame and all those guys. What can be a bigger challenge than that?"
Set to call the shots for the national team in the friendlies as well as in the upcoming FIBA window is Serbian coach Nenad Vucinic.
"[This is a chance] for Coach Nenad to get more assimilated into how we do things, understanding how the Filipino player is, and the Filipino players understanding Coach Nenad as well," Reyes said. "This is all part of the process."