A young Gilas Pilipinas squad featuring plenty of amateur standouts will try to shock favored New Zealand when they face off in the third window of the FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers, Thursday afternoon at the EventFinda Stadium in Auckland.
The Filipinos are facing tall odds against the host nation, having lost to New Zealand, 88-63, when they played in February.
The Gilas Pilipinas team that will compete in the third window is considerably younger than the previous edition, with Kiefer Ravena and Dwight Ramos serving as the veterans of the squad.
Amateur standouts RJ Abarrientos, SJ Belangel, Geo Chiu, Dave Ildefonso, Francis Lopez, William Navarro, and Carl Tamayo are also in the fold, while Rhenz Abando and Kevin Quiambao will be making their FIBA debuts.
"We've got a young team here and it’s up to them to prove that they can play at that level and that they can play important games like these two qualifying games," said coach Nenad Vučinić, who was tasked to call the shots for Gilas Pilipinas in the third window.
The Philippines went 1-1 in February, having routed India, 88-64, before absorbing their big defeat against New Zealand.
Vučinić is optimistic that his young squad can avenge their loss in February, although he acknowledges that the Tall Blacks will be "very tough." New Zealand currently has a 3-0 record in Group A, having beaten India twice already.
"I think they’re going to have their top team for this window. They didn’t have their top team when they were here when they beat us," he said.
"They [Gilas] cannot step back, they cannot go into this game not thinking that they can win the game. This is very important," the coach added. "But they have to also execute. They have to play within the system."
"We have got some talent that we can exploit, but without the system, it’s impossible to do that. So they have to trust the system, they have to execute and then you know it comes down to the ability to adjust to what the opposition is doing because it’s high-level opposition, very good coaching staff."
Tip-off between Gilas and New Zealand is at 3:30 p.m.
After facing the Tall Blacks, the Filipinos will head home to host India on July 3 at the Mall of Asia Arena.