MANILA, Philippines -- The performance of a youthful Gilas Pilipinas squad in the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers is reason for optimism, according to the president of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP).
SBP president Al Panlilio on Tuesday hailed the young Gilas players, who booked two victories in the November 2020 window of the qualifiers against a Thailand squad composed of professional players. None of the players called up by the federation had ever seen action in the PBA, and most of them were still playing in the UAAP or the NCAA.
"Congratulations for a job well done to Gilas Pilipinas men’s team program director Tab Baldwin, head coach Jong Uichico, all the assistant coaches and staff, and the 15 young men who represented our country in Manama, Bahrain," Panlilio said in a statement.
"Even with the challenges the situation presented, you gave no excuses and gave us two performances that the entire country is proud of," he added.
The strong result came despite the lack of preparation for the national team, as they held a training camp just a couple of weeks before leaving for the bubble in Manama. Despite the brief lead-up, the Philippines displayed chemistry in their two games and showed no fear against the more experienced Thais.
The young Filipinos defeated Thailand, 93-61, on Friday night, and followed it up with a 93-69 triumph on Monday that gave them a 3-0 record in the qualifiers.
Gilas Pilipinas currently sits at the top of Group A, ahead of South Korea (2-0) which opted to skip this qualifying window.
"Having young players come together at such a short time and still perform tremendously gives me so much excitement for what the future holds for Philippine basketball," said Panlilio.
"You played great team basketball, with sportsmanship, and with poise beyond your years as you showed the best that Philippine basketball has to offer," he added.
All of the players who saw action in the November 2020 window are in contention for spots in the next stage of the qualifiers, set for February 2021. PBA players, most of whom were still in the league's bubble in Clark during training camp, are expected to be made available for that window as well.