Chot Reyes takes on challenge of redemption in Cambodia playing cards Gilas has been dealt
The pieces are slowly falling in place for the Gilas Pilipinas crew that will gun for the mother of all redemptions for Team Philippines in the 32nd Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia in less than two weeks.
Justin Brownlee finished cooling his heels and attended practice on Thursday, bringing the total number of pool members to 14 and coach Chot Reyes feels that reclaiming the cage gold in Phnom Penh—even with manpower woes still there—is very achievable considering the time he and most of the players have had with the team.
“Although there are a lot of regular [PH members] missing, we have stability and continuity [of the program] this year,” Reyes told the Inquirer over the phone after practice when asked about the Gilas Five’s chances. “Last year we had so many transitions—from the coaches to the players.
“We’ve had none of that this time.”
The Nationals have been busy preparing for the past weeks and Reyes can’t wait for the weekend to see the final rosters as far as the opposition is concerned.
Rosters by weekend
“Although we already have scouted their last games, we still need to see who will be playing,” Reyes said, aware that coaches from other countries can pull off surprises with relaxed eligibility rules in effect.
“Right now, one only needs a passport to play,” the fiery coach went on. “So, even if we have seen and scouted all of their last games, there’s still this chance that someone we don’t know comes up to play. We don’t want that. So we will see who will be up against by the weekend.”
“We will get to know all of them once the final lineups are bared,” assistant Jong Uichico said. “But right now, we have been doing our due diligence and watching every country.”
The Philippines lost the men’s basketball gold last year in Hanoi when Indonesia—handled by first Gilas program coach Rajko Toroman of Serbia—scored the upset of those Games.
It was the first time in more than three decades that the Philippines lost, a setback that was felt back in the country and overshadowed the victories of other national athletes there.
Pieces of bad news have come of late, with June Mar Fajardo begging off to recover from a knee injury; Scottie Thompson needing to attend to the birth of his child; Mikey Williams and Jamie Malonzo having prior commitments.
“It’s a reality we have to deal with,” Reyes said. “We have other pieces on the team and we play with the cards that we are dealt.”
The team departs for Cambodia on May 6, a day after the Opening Ceremonies, with the cage tournament to open four days later and the Philippines taking the Morodok Techno National Stadium Elephant Hall second floor first against Malaysia at 12 noon in Manila.
Reyes and his coaching staff which includes Tim Cone and Jong Uichico will start a week-long camp at Inspire Academy in Laguna on Sunday, where they are expected to fully brief all the players on the opposition in Cambodia.
Bracketed with lightweights Singapore, the Malaysians and the hosts, the Filipinos will advance to the crossover semifinals without a hitch expected as the top two from each group will progress.
The other group will be made up of Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Laos and barring major upsets in group play, Team Philippines will likely get a crack at the Indonesians in the finals.
Asked how he feels about the chances of reclaiming lost glory by playing with the cards that he has, Reyes minced no words.
“You know me, I have always been a fighter,” Reyes said. “I always feel that I have a chance at winning and going there will be no different.”