MANILA, Philippines -- Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes apologized on Tuesday night after the national team crashed out of the FIBA Asia Cup, but insisted that the experience will benefit the young squad in the long run.
A 102-81 defeat to Japan prevented Gilas Pilipinas from advancing to the quarterfinals -- the first time since 2007 that the Philippines failed to make the last eight of the continental tournament. This also marks the first time that the Akatsuki Five have beaten the Philippines since the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou.
"Well, obviously, the result is not what we wanted. Again, we are very sorry that we've disappointed a lot of our countrymen, our fellow Filipinos," Reyes said after the game, which saw Gilas commit 17 turnovers that Japan translated to 23 points.
Yet Reyes still maintained that Gilas will leave the 2022 FIBA Asia Cup with plenty of lessons, particularly for the young players in the squad.
The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas called up a youthful group for the continental competition, with TNT's Poy Erram the only active PBA player in the lineup. Japan-based professionals Ray Parks Jr., Thirdy Ravena, and Kiefer Ravena were among the veterans in the team.
Their campaign was hampered from the start by injuries to key players, including naturalized big man Ange Kouame and star guard Dwight Ramos.
"We brought a very young team here and the experience is just going to make them better," Reyes stressed. "To be able to be exposed to that kind of intensity and level of play here in the Asia Cup, there is not one player on our team in the 12 players that have been in the Asia Cup."
"This is all their first time. So, as I said, we wished to get at least into the top eight but we weren't able to get the job done," he said.
Reyes has been roundly criticized from the moment he was appointed as Gilas head coach in February, taking over from Tab Baldwin. While making it clear that he did not ask for the job, Reyes also insists that he and the federation already have plans for the national team heading into next year's FIBA Basketball World Cup.
The Philippines is co-hosting the showpiece event along with Japan and Indonesia.
"We already have a plan in place for the next window. I can't divulge it here but we already have a plan until August next year. We just have to execute," Reyes said.
"As I said, we are operating in very difficult circumstances and a lot of restrictions. But we are making do with what we have. In the end, that's all we can do right?" he added. "To take what is in front of us and just keep plugging away and hopefully, we continue to develop and get better for the next games."
The early exit in the 2022 FIBA Asia Cup is the latest in a string of disappointing results for the Philippine men's national basketball team, which includes a second place finish in the 31st Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi, Vietnam last May.
Gilas Pilipinas, coached by Reyes, failed to defend its gold medal in the regional competition that it has dominated for decades, falling to Indonesia, 85-81, in its final game.