MANILA, Philippines -- The members of the Philippine national basketball team are mentally, physically, and emotionally bracing themselves for a "grind" in the next couple of months, as they officially began their build-up for the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
Gilas Pilipinas convened for its first practice on Monday night at the Meralco Gym, with eight players showing up: Raymond Almazan, Gabe Norwood, Mark Barroca, Roger Pogoy, June Mar Fajardo, Troy Rosario, Marcio Lassiter, and Japeth Aguilar.
A few days earlier, national team coach Yeng Guiao met with the team to set expectations, ahead of their campaign in Foshan, China in August.
"I always remind them that this is always a sacrifice kasi alam ko marami dito sa mga players na 'to na halos nabu-burn out na, halos pagod na pagod with their mother teams and then they have to come in with the national team," said Guiao.
"And all of these guys are playing heavy minutes for their teams. Hindi naman ito 'yung mga nakakapagpahinga sa mga games nila," he added. "So the important thing in the meeting is kailangan talaga ma-set mo 'yung mental perspective nila eh kung papano mo i-embrace 'yung challenge."
"So always try to get them ready mentally and remind them that mahirap itong pinasok natin pero para sa bansa ito so we just have to respond to the call of duty and to be able to accomplish our mission."
The players, all of whom were part of the 14-man roster that ensured the Philippines' qualification to the World Cup earlier this year, professed their readiness for the upcoming months of dual practices and training camps.
"You know, it's the sacrifices we all make," said Lassiter, who on Sunday competed in an overtime game in the PBA Commissioner's Cup with San Miguel Beer.
"We come in here to just get a lot of work in, and do the things that we need to do to prepare for the World Cup. We all understand the small sacrifices that we have to take," he added. "All these sacrifices, hopefully, it can do something good for us in the World Cup."
Pogoy, for his part, said the players are adjusting their mindset now as they have to do even more work than usual.
"Dalawang practice -- sa mother team namin, at saka dito," he said. "Pero kasi, hindi pwedeng bale-walain 'to eh. Kasi importante 'to eh, para sa bayan kasi 'to. So ayun, magsa-sacrifice kami para sa bayan."
"We have to come out and be really mentally prepared and physically prepared, so right now, like we said now is the time we start," said Lassiter. "We really gotta just all come together and just bring it all together."
The national team will hold two practices per week, and will welcome Andray Blatche on July 8. They will hold daily practices in August, then fly to Spain for a training camp on August 4.
However, Gilas players whose mother teams are competing in the PBA Commissioner's Cup finals will be excused from the camp.
The FIBA World Cup runs from August 31 to September 15. The Philippines' group round games will be held in Foshan, where they will play Angola, Serbia, and Italy.
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