Gilas Pilipinas shifts attention to FIBA Asia Cup

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 03 2022 10:09 PM

After the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers, Gilas Pilipinas will now focus on the FIBA Asia Cup. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News
After the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers, Gilas Pilipinas will now focus on the FIBA Asia Cup. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines -- There will be little opportunity for Gilas Pilipinas to rest after their campaign in the first round of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.

Almost immediately after trouncing India, 79-63, on Sunday night, the Philippine men's national basketball team turned its attention to its next assignment -- the FIBA Asia Cup 2022 in Indonesia, set to start on July 12.

Of immediate concern is the roster that the Philippines will bring to the continental competition. Coach Nenad Vucinic had only 10 men in his line-up on Sunday night against India, with Dave Ildefonso sustaining a knee injury that will also keep him from playing in the Asia Cup.

"He will not go to the Asia Cup. Right now, I'm not sure if we're gonna have more than 10 players. We're hoping for that," said Vucinic, who called the shots for Gilas starting with their tune-up games against South Korea last month.

"We're hoping that guys like Thirdy Ravena and possibly Ray Parks would join the team. It's good to have a full 12," he added.

The Serbian mentor acknowledged that as it stands, the Gilas line-up is "unbalanced." They only have one true center in the roster in Ateneo's Geo Chiu, but Vucinic is uncertain if they can tap any PBA player to join the squad for the Asia Cup. One player who was initially expected to join is TNT's Troy Rosario, but he is currently dealing with an injury that has already caused him to miss three games in the PBA Philippine Cup.

"We are in a situation that we are playing a little bit unbalanced as a team. We don't really have enough size, have enough big guys that we can rotate. We're playing Will Navarro out of position as a big guy," said Vucinic.

"We don't expect, really, anymore help on the big men position because the PBA is being played, and we cannot get any players there for this tournament," he added.

However, Vucinic said this cannot be an excuse for the team heading into the Asia Cup, especially as they have been playing with the same line-up for a month now.

"We have to continue to try to find the ways to make up for the lack of size, and that probably has to go on the defensive end," he said.

It also remains to be seen who will coach the team, but Chot Reyes, the national team program director and de facto head coach, says this "doesn't really matter."

Reyes, who was at the Gilas game on Sunday night at the Mall of Asia Arena, said he will continue to work hand-in-hand with Vucinic in preparing the national team for the Asia Cup.

"It's going to be a combination. Coach Nenad will have to continue training because I'm coaching in the PBA. I have a game on Thursday and Sunday. We'll need Coach Nenad to continue training and preparing the team," he said.

The national team will get two days off, according to Reyes, before resuming their preparations on Wednesday.

Gilas is grouped with India, Lebanon, and New Zealand in Group B of the FIBA Asia Cup; they open their campaign against Lebanon on July 13.