Despite challenges, Gilas Pilipinas looks to do well at FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers in Clark ‘bubble’

THE Philippine national men’s basketball team looks to do well in the third window of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Asia Cup Qualifiers (ACQ) beginning this week despite the challenges it has to deal with in the lead-up.

This was shared by Ryan Gregorio, special assistant to Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas President Al S. Panlilio, as Gilas Pilipinas, made up of an all-cadet roster, on Sunday entered the “bubble” at Clark City in Angeles, Pampanga, where the qualifiers will take place from June 16 to 20.

The SBP official said the team’s preparation was not easy as it had to grapple with limitations in training presented by the pandemic as well as injuries to key players.

“We are bringing a relatively young team to the competition and it’s important for them to get a better understanding of what to expect. We know it’s not easy for them because they have been training in a bubble for nine weeks now. They have sacrificed a lot, being away from their family and not being able to do what they usually do,” said Mr. Gregorio during his session on The Chasedown program on Saturday.

Gilas had its training bubble at the INSPIRE Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna, in the past months before entering the Clark bubble yesterday.

Mr. Gregorio went on to say, “Also, injuries are really an issue for us. It’s a challenge for the coaching staff since the players that went down play a huge role in the team. So we’re trying to inculcate to them the ‘Next man up’ mentality. That is stepping up and being ready because we cannot be sure injuries will not happen in the tournament.”

Out injured for the FIBA Asia Cup third window are Matt Nieto (hand), Dave Ildefonso (foot) and Rey Suerte (ankle).

In their absence, Gilas will turn to the remaining players in the pool to carry the fight.

They include Dwight Ramos, Mike Nieto, Isaac Go, Will Navarro, Jaydee Tungcab, Justine Baltazar and Javi Gomez de Liaño, who all played in the second window in Jordan last November.

Also in the pool are Jordan Heading, Tzaddy Rangel, SJ Belangel, RJ Abarrientos, Carl Tamayo, Jason Credo, Geo Chiu and Lebron Lopez.

Part of the roster of players as well is newly naturalized player Angelo Kouame, who the SBP believes will be a big boost to the team.

International basketball campaigner Kai Sotto, who is currently in the country, is being considered to be part of the qualifiers.

But Mr. Gregorio said Mr. Sotto suiting up for the team all depends on his game shape after undergoing quarantine since arriving from the United States two weeks ago.

“We don’t want him to play just for the sake of suiting up. We want him to play the best basketball he can.”

Group A-leading Gilas (3-0), which is to be coached by Gilas program director Tab Baldwin, opens its campaign on June 16 against Korea (2-0). It then returns on June 18 versus Indonesia (1-2) and on June 20 versus Korea anew.

Meanwhile, Gilas games as well as other matches in the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers will be streamed by Smart Communications, Inc. by way of

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Streaming of the games on June 12 with the match between Qatar and Iran in Group E. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo

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