MANILA, Philippines -- Marc Pingris gave Gilas Pilipinas passing marks after their game against Saudi Arabia on Monday, but also stressed the need for better chemistry in the squad.
Pingris was among the nearly 20,000 fans who watched Gilas wallop Saudi Arabia, 84-46, on Monday night for a successful end to the fourth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers. As the team is already qualified to next year's World Cup as hosts, Gilas Pilipinas coaches are using the windows to evaluate the players.
"Okay naman 'yung laro, 'yung game nila," said Pingris. "But more ano pa siguro, 'yung chemistry. That's No. 1."
Gilas needed time to find its rhythm against a lower-ranked Saudi Arabian team. Despite having Filipino-American guard Jordan Clarkson on the floor, they scored a paltry 11 points in the opening period -- nine of which came from the Utah Jazz star.
It wasn't until the third quarter that the Filipinos got going on both ends, out-scoring Saudi Arabia, 24-8. From there, it was all Gilas, much to the delight of the partisan crowd.
While Pingris was glad that the Philippines got the win, he was also frank in his assessment of the squad with less than a year left before the World Cup.
"Sana, mag-jell pa 'yung team," said Pingris, a member of the 2013-14 Gilas Pilipinas squad that won silver in the FIBA Asia Championships and qualified for the World Cup.
"Ang importante kasi sa kanila, 'yung foundation na ginagawa ni [Coach] Chot [Reyes]," he added. "Kailangan mas matagal na practice pa. Dahil itong line-up na 'to, napakabigat, pramis… Malakas 'yung team na 'to."
"Siguro sa akin, katulad ng ginawa sa amin before na two months kami nag-practice, kaya amoy na amoy namin 'yung isa't isa. So ito, itong line-up na 'to, promise, malakas 'to," he added. "Pero 'yun ang sasabihin ko ulit, kailangan nila ng chemistry."
There is no doubt that the line-up has talent, and it also has size. Clarkson was the clear centerpiece of the roster for the fourth window but center Kai Sotto was also present, with Japeth Aguilar providing veteran leadership.
"Ang ang lalaki nitong line-up na 'to compared sa line-up namin dati," Pingris observed.
But they need time to become a true team, and Pingris hopes they get the opportunity to have a months-long preparation before next year's World Cup. In 2014, Gilas Pilipinas trained for two months before the competition in Seville, Spain.
It paid off, as they were competitive against higher-ranked teams before snatching a breakthrough triumph against Senegal.
"'Yung chemistry, 'yun ang pinaka-importante para mas malayo pa 'yung marating nila. Kasi ang sa akin, kahit sinong ilagay mo diyan, kahit sinong NBA player or PBA player, kahit sinong malakas diyan, kung wala silang chemistry, wala rin silang mapupuntahan," Pingris said.
The PBA has already committed to holding just two conferences next season to give way for the World Cup. They plan to halt their season in late April 2023 and release players to the national team, which would give them some three months of training.
Clarkson, for his part, intends to join the squad with six weeks to go before the World Cup.