MANILA, Philippines -- Even though Gilas Pilipinas is already assured of a spot in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023, their attitude towards the qualifiers have not changed.
The Philippines and Japan are both assured of berths in the World Cup, while the third co-host, Indonesia, will also automatically qualify if they finish in the top eight of the FIBA Asia Cup 2021.
Gilas Pilipinas received a relatively favorable draw in the qualifiers, as they were drawn with India, South Korea, and New Zealand in Group A. The qualifiers open in November, with national teams playing in a home-and-away format.
That they have already secured a World Cup berth "doesn't change anything," however, according to Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) official Ryan Gregorio.
"We're still gonna prepare as if there's a slot that we're fighting for," said Gregorio, the special assistant to SBP president Al Panlilio who also works closely with Gilas Pilipinas program director Tab Baldwin.
"I think Coach Tab would attest to this, that we're really going for the win, because we want to develop that winning attitude," he explained.
The qualifiers will be crucial to the national team's build-up for the 2023 World Cup itself, and Baldwin believes their performances in the windows will go a long way towards ensuring that Gilas is ready for the big event.
"You have to be prepared to go out on the court and play every game as if it's an elimination game," stressed Baldwin. "You have to treat games as if there is no tomorrow, and that's how you develop that winning mentality in your players."
This is an ongoing process for Gilas Pilipinas, especially as the team continues to develop young players. Baldwin and the SBP opted to go with amateurs during their competitions this year, with PBA players unavailable.
The move paid off, particularly in the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers where Gilas Pilipinas swept the final window, including two impressive wins over rival South Korea.
As they continue to chart their course towards 2023, Baldwin said they will have to continue making progress.
"We still have a lot of development to do with our players, and with the team as a whole," he said. "Develop chemistry, develop the ability to work together, develop our best rosters."
"So there (are) these dual purposes that we continue to talk about and trying to make our program a program that's not only just gonna go to the World Cup, but go to the World Cup and succeed," he added.