Gilas finally complete, thankful for friendlies vs Aussie squad
June Mar Fajardo, Troy Rosario, and Roger Pogoy finally joined Gilas Pilipinas’ training Tuesday night, and Yeng Guiao is confident that the trio will blend in seamlessly in time for their friendlies later this week.
“It’s a lot of work,” the national coach told reporters after a whirlwind Wednesday at Meralco Gym in Ortigas. “Hopefully, by Thursday, they’ve already memorized the plays.”
They need to. The national team is ready to move on and move forward as the Fiba World Cup approaches, with key exhibition matches against Australian side Adelaide 36ers.
Moving on because the two tune-up games on Friday and Sunday mark the first on-court interaction between basketball federations of the Philippines and Australia after their brawl-marred World Cup qualifying game in Bocaue, Bulacan, last year.
‘A little better’
Moving forward, because the trio’s presence—Fajardo, Rosario, and Pogoy skipped a lot of practice time to focus on their clubs’ PBA Finals stint—finally allows Guiao to prepare for the Fiba centerpiece with a full pool.
“It’s a little better today,” Guiao said of the trio’s adjustments. “But we need to isolate them a bit more and give them more time to catch up.”
The team is expected to get measured well against the Adelaide squad, which will also help heal the basketball relationship between the two countries after last year’s controversy.
Erase bad memories
“We want to erase some of the memories of the past and replace them with good ones,” Guiao said at Meralco headquarters in Ortigas on Wednesday, during a presser which also served as a send-off for the national team.
“We also know they play high-quality basketball that’s why we also wanted to play them because we understand how much it is going to be of big help in our preparations,” he added.
Gilas will play the Sixers behind closed doors at Meralco Gym and apply the final tweaks to its roster before leaving for the city of Foshan in China, where the Nationals face Italy, World No. 4 Serbia and then Angola in Group D play.
Adelaide’s mentor Joey Wright was just as appreciative of the goodwill games, stressing that his charges are doing more than extending an olive branch.
“We’re here for them more than they are for us. We’re here to try to help them get better,” he said.
“We expect them to be passionate and play great basketball [while] we try to get out there and work on some things ourselves,” said Wright, who is no stranger to Philippine basketball, having played alongside PBA icon Allan Caidic for the Presto Kings in 1992.
Wright was not the only member of the Adelaide squad who is familiar with the Philippines. Anthony Drmic, a member of the Boomers team that competed in that controversial World Cup qualifying match, is also seeing action in the friendlies.
“Actually there was nothing really to adjust to,” he told the Inquirer. “Everyone (from both sides) got their sanctions, and kind of moved on from that. This even obviously helps with that healing process.”
“I am so glad that they understand our predicament,” Guiao said of the Aussies. “It has been hard looking for a quality team to train with.”
“If you ask me now, we’re not yet really ready,” he said. “These next 10 days will be important for us as we just got the three (Fajardo, Rosario, Pogoy) back.”
“We’re cramming but I think we’ll be fine.”
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.