Gilas Pilipinas is raring to begin its journey towards the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
In a send-off press conference organized by Smart at the Crowne Plaza in Ortigas, the team expressed its excitement and vigor heading into the Asian Qualifiers this November.
Among those present in the event were coach Chot Reyes and his coaching staff, members from the SBP, and partners Smarts Sports and Chooks-to-go.
Gilas pool members Gabe Norwood, Allein Maliksi, Troy Rosario, Matthew Wright, Kiefer Ravena, Kevin Alas, Mac Belo, Raymond Almazan, June Mar Fajardo, Carl Bryan Cruz, and Japeth Aguilar were in attendance.
The first game for our national squad is on November 24 against Japan at the Komozawa Olympic Park General Sports Gymnasium in Tokyo.
The team has been doubling its efforts leading up to the qualifiers, holding practices twice a day since November 3. As in previous international tournaments, the issue of preparation time is a cause of concern. However, coach Chot Reyes is confident that his team can deliver.
“Kung hind mahirap, hindi Gilas, di ba? It’s something we’re used to. It’s something we prided ourselves in tackling it head on and not using it as an excuse,” Reyes said on their limited training schedule.
Reyes went on to commend the commitment and dedication of his players.
“This especially different. When we called up the players, they were all on vacation,” the Gilas mentor shared. “Giving up rest and vacation just to wear Pilipinas across their chest. At the end it’s the sacrifice of the gentlemen.”
There is however no assurance from the players attending the regular Gilas practices that they will all make it into the final roster. According to Reyes, there is no official lineup yet for the qualifiers. As in previous Gilas teams, only 12 spots are available. “We will make the lineup the night before the lineup is due. And that is the final most difficult part,” Reyes explained.
Reinforcement Andray Blatche meanwhile hopes to arrive in the country as early as Saturday night to join the team’s practices this week.
For Gilas’ upcoming first game on the 24th, Reyes is very optimistic against the tough Japan team.
“I think we have a very good chance against Japan,” Reyes confidently said. The coach also pointed out that the cold weather could be a huge factor in their trip. Their opponent’s familiarity and crowd support are a few things to be considered as well. Still, Reyes is confident that his team can come up big.
“Our hope as a coaching staff with coach Jong (Uichico) and coach Josh (Reyes), we’d be able to up to the task in preparing the best game plan as possible to compete against Japan and Chinese Taipei. We’re not looking beyond that.”
After Japan, Gilas Pilipinas will shift its focus on their home game against Chinese Taipei on November 27 at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.