Gilas tackles India in delayed debut; Tall Blacks unrelenting | Inquirer Sports
WORLD CUP QUALIFIER

Gilas tackles India in delayed debut; Tall Blacks unrelenting

/ 05:20 AM February 25, 2022
Gilas Pilipinas in the 2021 Fiba Asia Cup qualifiers.

FILE–Gilas Pilipinas in the 2021 Fiba Asia Cup qualifiers. FIBA ASIA CUP PHOTO

Gilas Pilipinas makes its delayed debut in the window of the Fiba (International Basketball Federation) World Cup Qualifiers on Friday, taking on India instead of a South Korean side that failed to make the trip to here because of a COVID-19 outbreak within its team.

And though the Filipinos will be colliding with an Indian crew that was just dealt a 55-point butt-whipping by New Zealand on Thursday, Gilas coach Chot Reyes is not about to let his guard down and will face India with the mindset that it is still a formidable force in this tournament.

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“Over the years, right before our eyes, we’ve seen India develop as a basketball competitor,” Reyes said after presiding over practice of the Philippine Five. “Their skills have tremendously improved with the way coach [Veselin] Matic is with them.

“We’re certain they’ll be very well-coached and well-prepared,” he added.

Korea was supposed to play Team Philippines twice—the first being Thursday—but failed to send a team with several players testing positive for the virus on the days leading up to the event. The Koreans have thus forfeited their games here and don’t stand a chance of qualifying for the main event next year.

And with the Filipinos down to playing just two games, Reyes had also said that he might not get to play everyone in the pool, especially since the match against the Tall Blacks on Sunday looming as the one for top spot.

Ange Kouame, Dwight Ramos and Thirdy Ravena will lead the young brigade that the governing Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) hopes will banner Gilas when the country cohosts the World Cup next year, and SBP president Al Panlilio wants to stick with the idea of having 24 players on the pool moving forward.

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Young core for 2023

New Zealand Tall Blacks' Tom Voldanovich.

New Zealand Tall Blacks’ Tom Voldanovich. FIBA.BASKETBALL PHOTO

“We’ll have to have maybe 24 names that we’re to be working [with]. Some of them will be here, and the others will have commitments,” he said.

“That’s really something I have to really work with Chot —identifying names. And if we identify certain PBA names, if there’s no [tournament], then they can also participate in the certain window [of games],” he went on.

“That’s planning we need to do, but in mind, it’s also competing in all [these] upcoming tournaments leading to the World Cup,” he added.

The match against India is slated at 6 p.m. at Smart Araneta Coliseum where New Zealand manhandled India, 101-46, to serve notice of how formidable it is and more than a worthy match for a Philippine team seeking to gauge its strength in the region.

“India lost but they’re a long team, they’re tall so given that, they could cause us some problems so we have just have to go out there and try to play our hardest, play our own game, and hopefully we get the win,” said Ramos, who like Ravena planed back from Japan to answer the call of the flag.

New Zealand broke out of the gates hard and buried the Young Cagers to a 32-8 hole after the first 10 minutes. There was no looking back from there and no chance for India to even make a game out of it.

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TAGS: Fiba qualifiers, Gilas Pilipinas, India, New Zealand
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