2021 FIBA Asia Cup: Nietos, De Liaños lead Gilas roster at Bahrain qualifiers

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 27 2020 08:22 AM | Updated as of Nov 27 2020 10:00 AM

Brothers Juan and Javi Gomez de Liaño of University of the Philippines, and Matt and Mike Nieto of Ateneo headline the Gilas Pilipinas 12-man roster that will battle Thailand in the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers in Bahrain on Friday.

Isaac Go and Will Navarro, who were part of the Blue Eagles team that included the Nietos and won the UAAP Season 82 championship, also received slots in the Manama event.

Also on the final roster are Kobe Paras, Justine Baltazar, Kenmark Carino, Dave Ildefonso, Dwight Ramos and Rey Suerte.

The Philippines will play Thailand twice in a bubble set-up in Bahrain, with the national team looking to build on an impressive 100-70 victory over Indonesia all the way back in February.

This time, though, a roster doesn't have a player with PBA experience on it, the first time in the history of the Gilas program at the continental level of competition.

The current squad's average is younger than 23 years old, with Suerte the oldest at 26.

"(Coach) Tab (Baldwin) was saying that it's very inspiring to see these young men carry our flag in such a very unusual period of tournaments," said Al Panlilio, president of Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, the sport's national governing body.

Baldwin, the Gilas program director who has had extensive experience in the international game, is familiar with most of the roster because he coached some of them on the Blue Eagles and against the others at the UAAP.

Paras and co., who will be coached by Jong Uichico for this Asia Cup window, will be taking on a Thailand side made up of professional players but who have played together more often.

The last time the 2 countries met, the Philippines, composed of PBA veterans and handled by Tim Cone, dismantled the Thais for the gold medal in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.

Baldwin, a coach known for putting together well-prepared teams, appeared to not reveal as much about what Gilas knew about its Southeast Asian rivals.

"We have video. We have an understanding of their basic systems," he said.

"Obviously, things can change, but we feel like we have a reasonable idea of their personnel, and we have some expectations of the types of systems that they play."