THE journey towards improvement continues for Gilas Pilipinas following a successful campaign in the recently concluded International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Asia Cup Qualifiers (ACQ).
This was shared by Gilas program director and head coach Tab Baldwin following their 82-77 victory over rival Korea on the final day of competition in the qualifiers, which completed for them a sweep of all six matches in the pandemic-disrupted tournament.
“We still have a lot of work to do. We can’t get ahead of ourselves. This is a good start but we have to stay focused again, going back to that theme of improvement,” said Mr. Baldwin at the post-game press conference.
The national men’s basketball team coach commended the all-cadet Gilas players for the manner with which they competed just as he expressed hope that they get to stay the course so as to achieve their collective goal of achieving success for the team and country.
“This is a great group of guys to work with… But the fact is this is a long-term job and in order to do this job well, at the level we hope to get to, we have to put in the work,” he said.
It will be a short turnaround for Gilas as it will be competing in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Belgrade, Serbia, from June 29 to July 4.
Gilas will be playing with the host country and the Dominican Republic in Group A in the OQT where one Olympic spot is up for grabs.
The Philippines earned a spot in the qualifiers after New Zealand withdrew from various FIBA tournaments, including the OQT, over coronavirus-related concerns.
Playing in Group B are Puerto Rico, Italy, and Senegal.
Mr. Baldwin said their lineup will be coming from the same pool of players who saw action in the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers for continuity.
“The players that we have here in this bubble are the players that will go to Serbia. We have to leave one or two players behind, but the 12 players for the OQT will be taken from this group here,” he said.
Fifteen players composed the pool for Gilas in the FIBA ACQ, namely: Dwight Ramos, Justine Baltazar, SJ Belangel, RJ Abarrientos, Javi Gomez De Liano, Will Navarro, Angelo Kouame, Mike Nieto, Isaac Go, Jordan Heading, Carl Tamayo, Geo Chiu, Kai Sotto, Jaydee Tungcab and Lebron Lopez.
The Gilas coach said they are expecting a tough road in the OQT but reiterated the valuable experience to be gained by the players in Serbia.
The nationals return to work for the Olympic qualifiers this week, including playing the Chinese team, which also saw action in the ACQ, in a pair of tune-up matches. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo