Gilas Pilipinas, running on just three weeks’ worth of practices and tuneup games, hopes to bring home the 2017 William Jones Cup championship, which will be held in Taiwan from July 15 to 23, 2017.
In a send-off that was held at Crowne Plaza on Wednesday afternoon, the young members of the Gilas Pilipinas squad expressed their excitement to represent the country in the upcoming international tournament.
Fil-German Christian Standhardinger, in particular, is looking forward to his first stint with the Philippine team. “I think the last three (tune up) games helped me a lot to get adjusted to the system and the team. It’s going to be a lot of fun to play with these guys in the Jones Cup.”
Kiefer Ravena said that just like in any other competition, the team’s main goal is to win it all the way. “Like what coach said, nandoon na kami so might as well do everything to win. It’s an opportunity for us to get the championship and keep it here sa Philippines, just like what the players from last year did.”
Last year’s Philippine representative to the tourney, Mighty Sports, swept all their games en route to the 2016 Jones Cup title.
More than winning the crown, however, assistant coach Josh Reyes mentioned that this is an opportunity for Gilas to develop the system and move forward with the national team’s long-term program.
“As you know, we took the players who will really fit the system, and most importantly, the players who will really commit their time and effort and full commitment to the program,” he said. “We have a group of guys with great attitude and great commitment to the country. Every time we go out and compete, we want to get better.”
Reyes added that Canada, the first team that Gilas will face, will be a great challenge for the players. “They will not have the experience of playing guys like the players from Canada, but that’s a good test right away to hold their composure and keep on doing the right things in terms of our system and competing. We want to show character out there and never give up.”
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Ravena pointed out that this is just the first step that would hopefully give Gilas the momentum that they need heading to other international tournaments like the SEA Games and FIBA Asia Cup.
“Jones Cup is one step in advance or one step moving forward for the program. Yung bagong format ng FIBA na mangyayari, sana masanay yung team with it. We just have to make sure to adjust and cope up with everything.”
Ray Ray Parks, who was not initially part of the 16-man roster, will join the team in Taiwan although he’s still waiting for final word if he’s going to play. “(Coach Chot Reyes) talked to me about it. He just wants to bring me along and see how everything goes. We’ve been showing up in practice, so he just wants to keep this core group together.”
The Alab Pilipinas player continued that it’s a huge blessing and privilege for him to represent the country, and be an instrument of hope for Filipinos. “It feels good to bring unity and peace, and the joy of playing basketball. Hopefully it brings back the unity of cheering for one country, for one goal.”