Tougher World Cup stint for Gilas
Minus crack guard Jayson Castro and ace gunner Marcio Lassiter, Gilas Pilipinas faces its toughest stint yet in the Fiba World Cup which kicks off this Sunday in Foshan, China.
Castro has decided to give up his acknowledged role as the national team’s No. 1 playmaker in favor of his younger counterparts while Lassiter is out of commission with an injured knee he suffered during the recent Commissioner’s Cup which his San Miguel Beermen won over Jayson’s TNT KaTropa.
But national team mentor Yeng Guiao is worried more about getting his hastily assembled boys working like a well-oiled machine before Gilas Pilipinas tackles its three-game opening assignment in Group C in China where it needs two victories to reach the second round.
Gilas gets going on Aug. 31 against Italy, which was missing in the last World Cup. The Filipinos then tackle powerhouse Serbia on Sept. 2 before winding up their preliminary schedule on Sept. 4 against Angola.
The Italians and the Angolans, who finished 17th or four places ahead of Gilas in the classification round of the 24-team field in 2014, are certainly not as formidable as the Serbians, who reached the finals in Spain four years ago only to get clobbered in the title match by the US squad, 129-92.
Guiao has already named naturalized player Andray Blatche, June Mar Fajardo, Japeth Aguilar, Gabe Norwood, Troy Rosario and Roger Pogoy as sure bets for the China campaign with Mark Barroca, Paul Lee, Beau Belga, Robert Bolick, CJ Perez and Kiefer Ravena expected to complete the lineup with injuries also hounding Raymond Almazan, Matthew Wright and Poy Erram.
After serving a yearlong Fiba suspension for taking a banned substance, Ravena was expected to be fielded by Guiao in the second game of Gilas’ tuneup series against the visiting Adelaide 76ers from Australia which was going on at press time at the Meralco gym. Gilas won the initial skirmish Friday, 92-83.
Gilas placed runner-up behind Iran in the 2013 Fiba Asia Cup in Manila, but won only one of five qualifying matches in Spain—an 81-79 overtime decision over Senegal—while losing to Croatia, Greece, Argentina and Puerto Rico.
This year’s World Cup will also serve as qualifying for the 2020 Summer Olympics with the top two teams from the Americas and Europe and the top finisher from Africa and Asia and Oceania plus this year’s host China advancing to the world games.
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