Gilas flies out for two tough fifth window assignments
Gilas Pilipinas heads for Jordan on Monday night for the fifth window of the Fiba (International Basketball Federation) World Cup Asian Qualifiers, and—despite limited time to practice as a team—the Nationals will be shooting to win two games half a world away from home.
With a level 3-3 record and not really needing to win games after already qualifying for the global showcase being a cohost, the Philippines plays Jordan on Nov. 10 (midnight Nov. 11 in Manila) and then Saudi Arabia three days later in Jeddah as coaching staff continues to work on various roster combinations in preparation for the main event set in August.
“Like I said, we’ll get three practices in [with a complete roster] before we actually play Jordan,” national coach Chot Reyes told reporters late Saturday night, shortly after leading TNT to a rebound 121-90 win over Terrafirma in the Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup in Antipolo City.
“It’s not ideal, but it is what it is,” he said, “The players are primed for it. This is going to be a test of our agility [and] our versatility.”
A number of stars from the local pro league and standouts plying their trades in Japan are shaping up as picks for the final roster that will tackle the 3-3 Jordanians and the 1-5 Saudis.
Kai Sotto, the 7-foot-2 slotman, will be jetting in from Australia as Reyes will finally have a complete bunch to prepare for the Jordanians.
Reyes told the Inquirer that he knows of the perils of having a small window to practice together. But he also believes that the Nationals are ready as this is pretty much the same set of players who have played alongside each other for several games now and that they are already familiar with the team’s schemes and tendencies.
“We knew that there will be late arrivals as our players are playing in different leagues,” he said.
He later on used Sotto and program cornerstone Dwight Ramos to provide a deeper understanding of Gilas’ tough predicament.
“The difference between Kai and Dwight, for example, is just one practice. Dwight just arrived [last week] and only practiced with us [last] Monday,” Reyes pointed out.
“[But] like I said, they’ve already been with us … it’s like plug and play. We know it’s not as simple as that, but these are the cards we are dealt with and we’ll go to war with that.”
“The good thing is a lot of the players already know what we do, and that’s the value of team [practices]. The only real new guy is CJ [Perez]. Other than that, everyone else already had a chance to be with the group, so we’ll see how it goes,” Reyes said.
‘Next man up’
Gilas stuck with its routine despite other players fulfilling their club commitments overseas, like Sotto, and Ramos, Thirdy and Kiefer Ravena and Ray Parks Jr. in Japan. Reyes said that the remainder of the pool managed to pull through thanks to his old reliables at TNT who served as warm bodies during training.
Carl Tamayo on Saturday begged off from this window’s callup citing rehabilitation of his ankle. Ange Kouame and Kevin Quiambao, meanwhile, doubled down on their commitments in serving the flag, despite coming off fresh from varsity duties just this weekend.
“Again, the reason why there’s a pool is that we knew that not everyone will be available,” said Reyes. “People are going to be injured or have other issues, so we just have to go next man up.” INQ