Gilas Pilipinas training ongoing

GILAS PILIPINAS BEGAN ITS SCHEDULED ONE-MONTH TRAINING this week to ready itself for international tournaments set for the middle of the year, namely, the FIBA Asia Cup third qualifying window and the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade. — INSPIRE SPORTS ACADEMY FACEBOOK

By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter

PREPARATIONS of the Philippine national basketball team are ongoing in a “bubble” setting at the INSPIRE Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna.

Gilas Pilipinas began its scheduled one-month training this week to ready itself for international tournaments set for the middle of the year, namely, the FIBA Asia Cup third qualifying window in Clark on June 14-20 and the Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Belgrade on June 29-July 4.

Unlike previous iterations of the team that had Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) players in them, however, for the competitions up ahead the Gilas think tank has decided to go the all-cadet route.

Leading the list of players to train in the bubble are cadets Dwight Ramos, Justine Baltazar, Dave Ildefonso, Chris Koon, Juan Gomez de Liano, and naturalization candidate Angelo Kouame.

Also part of the list are 2019 PBA Gilas draftees Isaac Go, Matt and Mike Nieto, and Rey Suerte and so do the team’s special picks in the recent PBA draft — Jordan Heading, Will Navarro, Tzaddy Rangel, and Jaydee Tungcab.

The team saw players beg off from national team duty for now for varying reasons, which the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) said it understands.

Among them were Kobe Paras, Javi Gomez de Liano, Raven Cortez, Kevin Quiambao, and Kemark Carino.

To expand the training pool, Gilas invited Ateneo’s LeBron Lopez, SJ Belangel, Gian Mamuyac, Troy Mallillin, Geo Chiu, Kyle Ong, Jason Credo, and Josh Lazaro.

Also invited were Carl Tamayo of University of the Philippines and RJ Abarrientos of Far Eastern University.

Kai Sotto, who is currently in the United States, is not expected to join the team in the bubble.

The team will train under the staff composed of Gilas program director Tab Baldwin, head coach Jong Uichico and assistants Caloy Garcia, Alton Lister, Boyet Fernandez, Sandy Arespachochaga, Gabby Severino, and Dex Aseron.

Meanwhile, in a recent virtual media briefing, SBP President Al Panlilio said the decision to go all-cadet for the upcoming run of Gilas is partly to ease the burden on the PBA, which is grappling to chart its path for its new season with the pandemic still a going concern.

“If you want to look at it, [we] start training this month, and the PBA will start the season in April going through July 4, which is the last day of the OQT, it would completely just kill the calendar of the PBA,” said Mr. Panlilio.

The top SBP official went on to say the decision is also to keep the ball rolling of training and developing the young players for future competitions, including the FIBA World Cup in 2023, which the country is co-hosting with Japan and Indonesia.

As part of the team’s preparations, Gilas is also looking at holding a pocket tournament as well as playing some games in the PBA.

The Philippines currently leads Group A in the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers with a 3-0 record, ahead of South Korea (2-0), Indonesia (1-2), and Thailand (0-3).

It, meanwhile, got a surprise invitation to play in the Olympic Qualifiers as the next best team in the Asia-Oceania Region after New Zealand decided to pull out.

The Philippines in the OQT is lumped in Group A along with the Dominican Republic and Serbia.