Gilas Pilipinas five opens Fiba Asia Cup campaign vs China FridayBy Musong R. Castillo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
TOKYO—On paper, Smart Gilas-Pilipinas will be clashing against the tournament’s most feared five at the start of its Fiba-Asia Cup stint here Friday.
But Chot Reyes, who steered the team to a classic Jones Cup championship in Taipei three weeks ago, still has no idea what kind of a Chinese team his gritty Filipinos will be up against at the Ota Gymnasium in this Japanese capital.
“We heard they arrived around 2 in the morning, and yet we have not seen them,” Reyes said as he tries to prep his boys up for the 4:30 p.m. contest Friday.
Comments in the tournament website say that China, after a disappointing 12th-place finish in the London Olympics, will be sending a young squad here after deciding to disband its A-Team.
Some comments reportedly made by officials of the China Basketball Association said the country is starting preparations for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, hence, it would be breaking in a group of under-20 players.
The Philippine side could go down as the most scouted in the 10-country event.
It displayed its capabilities in the Jones Cup after compiling a 7-1 record. All but one of those wins was close, with the Filipinos capping their title run with a 76-75 victory over the United States.
Reyes said the team will continue to use speed as its main weapon since teams like Lebanon, Japan, Iran and Chinese-Taipei will be playing here with full rosters.
The Filipinos’ only loss in the Jones Cup was dealt by the Lebanese, who were without the durable Fadi El-Khatib.
El-Khatib, at 38, will be back for Leban-on as it tries to snatch a stint in the World Championship set in Spain next year.
Lebanon, incidentally, is bracketed with the Philippines, China, Macau and Uzbekistan in Group A, where the top two finishers after a single-round elimination will advance to the crossover semifinals with the qualifiers from Group B.
Iran, Chinese-Taipei, Qatar, India and Japan make up the other group.
Reyes failed to take a complete roster here with Kelly Williams, Ryan Reyes and Jason Castro still out because of injuries.