MANILA, Philippines -- Gilas Pilipinas has a "huge, huge task" ahead of them in the 2022 FIBA Asia Cup, with head coach Chot Reyes seeking to temper expectations for his youthful group.
The Philippines opens its campaign in Group D on Wednesday, July 13, against Lebanon, followed by a rematch against India on Friday, July 15, and against New Zealand on Sunday, July 17.
The bulk of the team is already in Jakarta, Indonesia, which is hosting the continental tournament for the first time since 1993. Leading the squad are brothers Thirdy and Kiefer Ravena, the comebacking Ray Parks Jr., and a host of young players including reigning UAAP Rookie of the Year Carl Tamayo.
Reyes as well as TNT center Poy Erram will leave for Jakarta on Monday night.
"I know when we arrive there, there's a huge, huge task ahead of us," Reyes said on Sunday night, after steering the Tropang GIGA to a 106-92 triumph against Barangay Ginebra in the 2022 PBA Philippine Cup.
"We're in a very tough group," the coach stressed. "Lebanon is playing the best I've ever seen in recent years. Their team is really stacked. They're playing very high-level basketball."
"It will take our best to just be able to compete with that team."
Lebanon is currently ranked 54th in the world by FIBA, and recently topped Group C of the FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers with a 5-1 win-loss record.
Gilas Pilipinas is familiar with the other two teams in the group: the Filipinos lost to New Zealand twice in the World Cup qualifiers but rebounded with two victories against India.
"We know how tough New Zealand is, and India, as you saw, is no pushover as well," said Reyes. "So we just want to manage everyone's expectations."
The Philippines' campaign in the FIBA Asia Cup has already taken a big blow when Dwight Ramos was ruled out due to a shin injury. He joined naturalized center Ange Kouame on the sidelines, with the Ateneo de Manila University big man recovering from a partially torn ACL.
Reyes said Gilas will do what it can in order to progress past the group round and make it to the quarterfinals, but he also admitted that this is not the primary goal for the team in Jakarta.
"The objective, really, is to take a look at the players that we have on this team, and see and look at their continued development, and continue our process of finding out what it's going to take to make sure that we have the best team for 2023," he explained.
The top team in each of the four groups will advance to the quarterfinals, while the second- and third-seed in each group will battle in a playoff to determine who progresses to the final eight.
The Philippines finished in second place in the 2013 and 2015 editions of the tournament, but finished seventh in 2017 which saw Australia and New Zealand participate for the first time.
The 2021 FIBA Asia Cup was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.