THE Gilas Pilipinas men’s team left for Manama, Bahrain, at the weekend to go into battle in the November window of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Asia Cup qualifiers set for later this week.
Composed of amateur and collegiate stars, the team admits that a tough challenge lies ahead, but it is determined to get the job done and give the country’s push in the tournament a boost and to build momentum for future windows.
“This is a good opportunity to showcase what our young players can do, but we are out to compete and win,” said the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas as it set its goals for the team competing in Bahrain.
Fourteen players are included in the Gilas pool for the tournament, namely: Kobe Paras, Juan and Javi Gomez De Liano, Jaydee Tungcab, Dwight Ramos, Dave Ildefonso, Will Navarro, Justine Baltazar, Calvin Oftana, Kenmark Carino, Isaac Go, Matt and Mike Nieto, and Rey Suerte.
Allyn Bulanadi and naturalized player candidate Angelo Kouame were part of the pool but could not join the team with the former injured and the latter still awaiting his papers.
Coach of the team is veteran Jong Uichico, supported by SBP program director Tab Baldwin, assistant coach Boyet Fernandez, and skills coach Alton Lister.
The team is to face Thailand twice in the November window – first on Nov. 27 and second on Nov. 30 at the Khalifa Sports City stadium.
The Philippines (1-0) was supposed to take on South Korea as well but the Koreans chose not to compete in the window because of concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. It remains to be seen if there would be sanctions handed down because of their decision.
“We are now in the process of preparing them for the international game. They’re young so we’re trying to make it simple for them given the limited time we have,” said Mr. Uichico, also the head of the SBP coaches academy.
For Mr. Go, a draftee of the Terrafirma Dyip in the Philippine Basketball Association but currently on loan to the national team, there is pressure as they go into battle but they are using it as added motivation to do well.
“There is pressure, of course, since we are representing the country but we are working to improve and be ready,” the former Ateneo star said.
The Philippines is currently in second place in Group A of the qualifiers, behind South Korea (2-0). Other teams in the group are Indonesia (0-2) and Thailand (0-1). The top two teams in the group at the end of the qualifiers advance to the FIBA Asia Cup set for August next year.
PLDT, SMART RALLY BEHIND GILAS
Meanwhile, the country’s largest integrated telco PLDT and its wireless arm Smart Communications, Inc. are rallying behind Gilas Pilipinas with connectivity as it represents the Philippines in the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers.
In a statement, the groups said GIGAROAM will power the Gilas Pilipinas team’s data roaming connectivity in Bahrain. With Smart’s global coverage and flexible data roaming plans, the team will be able to stay online, accessing their favorite apps, sites, and connect with their fans on social media during their stay abroad.
Aside from that, the members will also be able to enjoy 100 minutes of on-net calls to their relatives back home via Free Bee, powered by PLDT Global. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo