Gilas coaches set expectations: Struggling now, great later
Gilas Pilipinas will be running through a gauntlet of good teams in Estonia, ushering in the “teaming process” of its buildup geared towards the Fiba (International Basketball Federation) World Cup.
National coach Chot Reyes said that he expects his charges to be blown out of the water in a series of friendlies against European teams, but he swears that the tough stretch should steel the squad for the games that matter this August.
“If you remember, in 2014, when we traveled to France, we were blown out by Ukraine and Australia. There, we played the French national team, too,” he told the Inquirer recently.
“But [once] we were in Spain, we got better and better. And we were playing at a very high level come the actual tournament. So that’s what we’re trying to replicate here (in this tour], the process of toughening up,” he said.
Reyes was referring to the Antibes International Basketball Tournament hosted by the Les Blues just before the 2014 edition of the World Cup held in Seville.
There, Gilas lost to the Boomers and the Blue and Yellow with an average of 36 points but was able to give the French squad a major fright before bowing, 75-68.
This time in Tallinn, the Philippines will be playing World No. 24 Finland and the No. 44-ranked host in a pair of matches before traveling to Lithuania for the second leg of the Gilas buildup.
Reyes and his wards arrived in the Estonian capital Friday afternoon (Manila time) and immediately went to train at Spordiklubi Nord, a sports club within the city.
“These guys haven’t played top-level European competition in a long while,” he said of the lean squad he brought to Tallinn bannered by two World Cup participants in June Mar Fajardo and Japeth Aguilar.
“Some of these guys have never even faced (such kind of opposition),” Reyes added. “So this is their chance, so by the time we’re at the World Cup itself, they won’t be surprised (by the kind of competition).”
Tim Cone, another decorated mentor in the Gilas brain trust, echoed Reyes’ thoughts on struggling and offered another lens from which the team’s preparations should be looked at.
“We’re not going to be great now, but we expect to really keep moving forward, so hopefully by World Cup time, we will be great,” he said.
“I just think that this is an opportunity for us to understand the seriousness of what we’re doing,” he added.
Cone said that Italy, one of the Nationals’ assignments in the group stage of the World Cup set Aug. 25, is neck-deep in arranging friendlies—something Gilas is hoping to emulate.
“Italy’s like playing seven different countries. They’re obviously really preparing and preparing hard, playing tough teams in Greece, Serbia and that’s the kind of teams we’re playing. So we got to figure out a way to at least match their preparation,” he said.
“Finland is a tough team. Estonia, we saw them on video against Italy. They lost to them by eight points, but they’re huge. They’re bigger than Italy. So it’ll be interesting to play them.”