GILAS Pilipinas program director and coach Chot Reyes promised a fighting team even as he tempers expectations for his youth-laden troops in the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Asia Cup in Indonesia.
Mr. Reyes has tapped a cast of mostly collegiate stars and graduates with Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena, Ray Parks and TnT’s Poy Erram as reinforcements for the July 12-24 meet, which, he underscored, is part of the overall program for the 2023 FIBA World Cup.
“We just want to manage everyone’s expectations. We’re going to try our best to get to the top eight in the FIBA Asia,” he said.
“But the objective, really, is to take a look at the players that we have on this team and see and look at their continued development and continue our process of finding out what it is going to take to make sure that we have the best team for 2023.”
The youngsters previously carried the fight for the country in the third window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers, losing to New Zealand, 106-60, and beating India, 79-63.
They will have another go at their old tormentor New Zealand as well as India in Group D of the Asia Cup preliminaries with highly-touted Lebanon as the other tough competitor in the bunch.
“There’s a huge, huge task ahead of us. We’re in a very tough group,” said Mr. Reyes, whose team needs to top the group to gain outright quarterfinal entry or at least finish second or third to make it to the qualifying phase.
“Lebanon is playing the best I’ve seen in recent years. Their team is really stacked. They’re playing a very high level of basketball. It will take our best to just be able to compete with that team. And we know how tough New Zealand is. India, as you saw, is no pushover as well,” said Mr. Reyes.
Gilas opens its campaign against Lebanon on Wednesday at the Istora Gelora Bung Karno before the rematch with India on the 15th and the Tall Blacks on the 17th. — Olmin Leyba