Gilas shopping around for another ‘big’ player for Asia Cup
Gilas Pilipinas notched a huge victory on Sunday night, picking apart India for a second straight time to close out its opening round campaign in the Fiba (International Basketball Federation) World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
But while the 79-63 decision at the expense of the taller and full-strength visitors at Mall of Asia Arena was a neat way to rid the foul taste of a 106-60 beatdown handed by New Zealand on the road, coach Nenad Vucinic feels it should be a reminder of how much more Gilas should strive for.
“We probably shouldn’t have let our foot off the gas, but we are a young team, so the oscillations and the ups and downs, you know, are kind of expected,” the stand-in coach said in the postgame presser. “We are happy with the result, but we know that we can and we have to play a lot better in the Asia Cup.”
The Philippines finished 2-2 in the first phase of the qualifying, which it is using to prepare and gain valuable international experience for the 2023 World Cup. The next round won’t be until late August, so the Nationals are taking aim at the continental tiff set in Jakarta, Indonesia, which unfurls July 12.
There, Gilas hopes to perform even better. But their path will run through a familiar hurdle.
The Filipinos are again grouped with the Tall Blacks, which handily beat them by 46 points last week. Also in that bunch are India and three-time silver winner Lebanon, which should pose problems, according to Vucinic.
“We know New Zealand is a top-level team. We know we can beat India. Lebanon is a little bit unknown as we haven’t played them for a while,” said Vucinic.
“[Lebanon is] a strong team coming off a very good performance against Jordan, where they won by 20 points,” he went on.
Going there, Gilas is looking to beef up its personnel. Program director Chot Reyes said that they are looking to tap cornerstone Thirdy Ravena and reel in two-way star Ray Parks Jr. for the campaign.
Reyes said that 7-foot-3 Kai Sotto was being considered to plug the hole in the middle left by the injured Ange Kouame, but “he has decided to do some other thing and forego the Asia Cup.”
“We’re seeing if we can get another big man,” Reyes said as Kouame recovers from a knee injury.
TNT ready to help
“What the team needs is another big. You can’t have Geo Chiu as the only center. Of course, Troy Rosario was supposed to be there, but he’s injured as well. That’s a problem that we have to continue looking at.”
Reyes’ PBA club, TNT, can contribute a big man and reports have appeared that either Poy Erram and Kelly Williams, or both, could be called for another tour of duty.
But for now, Reyes said the young turks will continue preparing. Training will resume on Wednesday with the manpower crisis expected to be resolved later in the week, when TNT, the defending champion of the ongoing Philippine Cup, wraps up its elimination round.
Vucinic, for his part, has begun plotting against Lebanon.
“I think they’re at New Zealand’s level,” he said. “So for us to play against those two teams (the Tall Blacks and the Lebanese team) is going to be a challenge, but I told the guys it’s an opportunity for us that we have to look forward to.”
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