Young Gilas crew gets trial by fire
Chot Reyes knows the steep trek that awaits the young Gilas Pilipinas team that departs in a few days—and the veteran coach believes that the Nationals shouldn’t have it any other way.
“Sometimes, we’re going to lose. We’re going to lose big, maybe. But at least, our young players are going to be tested,” Reyes, also the national cage program’s chief, told reporters on Sunday night. “That’s the best way to face international competition, right?
“They’re going to New Zealand, playing a veteran team at home. What else could be a bigger challenge for Carl Tamayo, SJ Belangel, Ange Kouame, and all those other guys? What can be a bigger challenge than that? Like I’ve said, they will only grow from that experience.”
Reyes’ remarks come on the heels of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas unveiling the 12-man roster that will see action in a pair of friendlies in preparation for the third window of the Fiba (International Basketball Federation) World Cup Asian qualifiers.
Also on the roster are Dwight Ramos, RJ Abarrientos, Dave Ildefonso, Geo Chiu and Will Navarro—all of whom have Gilas experience.
NCAA Most Valuable Player Rhenz Abando, Filipino-American teen Francis Lopez, La Salle big man Kevin Quiambao and Kiefer Ravena round out the crew which will first play in a pair of exhibitions at Anyang Gymnasium in Gyeonggi-do South Korea beginning on Friday.
“We wanted to have a lot of young guys to see who could make it to the final lineup in [the Basketball World Cup in] 2023, so this was an excellent opportunity,” said Reyes.
It remains to be seen whether the same squad will be the one competing in the third window of the qualifiers, which pits the Philippines against the Tall Blacks in Auckland, and then India in Pasay City.
“It’s still hard to say,” said Reyes, who will be sitting this campaign out in favor of his deputy, Nenad Vučinić.
“The [contingent] is returning here July 2. They will then host India July 3. After that, the Asia Cup [in Jakarta] opens on July 12,” he said. “So when exactly are they going to train after arriving? Are we going to put [pros] in the squad, or that roster would be it?
“That’s just to allow everyone to appreciate how difficult the situation is,” said Reyes. “There will be games here and there are a lot scheduled. But at least, we’re testing out a lot of different players so, like I’ve said, hopefully, we can identify who can be tapped for 2023.”