SBP targets Russia, Spain
The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) is looking at a couple of friendly games with European powerhouses to prepare Gilas Pilipinas for the Fiba World Cup in China.
“[We are] in touch with Andrei Kirilenko. He wants us to go to Russia,” said SBP president Al Panlilio on Wednesday.
“Initially, it was just a one-game trip. We were [partial about it] but they said they’re willing to expand it to two games,” he added. “It’s something we’re trying to finalize with Andrei.”
Kirilenko, a former NBA star, now serves as the president of Russia’s basketball federation.
Panlilio said the friendly is slated sometime before the World Cup starts on Aug. 31.
The development came weeks after the initial plan to play Australia fizzled out. Last March, the SBP also expressed its reluctance in joining the Jones Cup this July—a tournament the Philippines considers its perennial training ground—due to scheduling woes.
Panlilio also said that the Philippines is getting a handful of other requests, and is considering taking on 2006 World Cup champions Spain in a scrimmage.
“We’ve actually gotten many invites,” he added. “But we’re also looking at Spain [for a] potential friendly.”
Gilas Pilipinas is classified in Group D play with Angola, Italy and 2014 runner-up Serbia.
Panlilio said that head coach and program director Yeng Guiao has requested to have the whole month of August cleared for members of the national team, in an effort to better prepare for the global event.
“We presented to the [PBA board] that coach Yeng (Guiao) wanted to have a full time in August,” he said. “[He wants time] to assess where we are, do his adjustments maybe in a two- or three- week period and then go to a last friendly to get ready for the World Cup.”
Andray Blatche, who has been a key cog in Gilas’ last appearance in the World Cup, is expected by Guiao to join the national team around July, according to Panlilio.
“We want to make sure he’s fit. We’re communicating with him. He has to make sure he’s playing his A-game in the World Cup,” he added.
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