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Gilas to go for sweep of FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers assignments

By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter

A WIN by Gilas Pilipinas in the third window of the International Basketball Association (FIBA) Asia Cup Qualifiers (ACQ) this month pretty much secures for it a spot in the continental tournament, but the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) wants the team to go for a sweep of its assignments if possible.

Currently leading Group A in the qualifiers with a 3-0 record, the Philippines has put itself in solid position to advance to the FIBA Asia Cup happening in Indonesia later this year.

The Philippine national men’s basketball team will try to secure the win that propels it to the Asia Cup in its scheduled three matches — two versus Korea (2-0) and one against Indonesia (1-2) — in the relocated window in Doha, Qatar, this month.

Thailand (0-4) is the other team in Group A.

For SBP President Al Panlilio, Gilas Pilipinas has always been out to get the best finish it can get every time it competes, and the ongoing qualifiers are no different.

“Of course, we want to win all those three games against Korea and one against Indonesia. We are still out there to win,” said Mr. Panlilio during the online Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum on Tuesday.

“It’s one game (needed to advance), but we will try to win every game. We want to make sure that we are competitive in all of them,” he added.

Mr. Panlilio, also an executive of Smart Communications and PLDT, shared that preparations of Gilas have been going well on the lead of SBP program director Tab Baldwin and head coach Jong Uichico.

“They are planning their strategies and assessing the competition. It’s very important that we prepare our players very well,” said the SBP head, whose organization is also in the process of gathering all the requirements of the team to be able to fly to Doha and compete.

In the third window, Gilas will parade a team composed of a mix of Philippine Basketball Association players and cadet members, who are currently gathered at the INSPIRE Sports Academy in Laguna in a training “bubble.”

Included in the pool players are PBA players Kiefer Ravena and Raul Soyud (NLEX), Troy Rosario and Roger Pogoy (TNT), Justin Chua (Phoenix Super LPG), and CJ Perez (San Miguel).

They are joined by PBA Gilas draftees Isaac Go, Rey Suerte and Matt and Mike Nieto, and cadets Juan and Javi Gomez de Liaño, Will Navarro, Calvin Oftana, Kemark Carino, Dave Ildefonso, Angelo Kouame (naturalized player candidate), Justine Baltazar, and Dwight Ramos.

Also set to join the pool is National Basketball Association G League player Kai Sotto, who returned from the United States on Tuesday night. He will undergo necessary quarantine and tests before joining the team in training.

In the training bubble, too, are assistant coaches Norman Black, Caloy Garcia, and Sandy Arespacochaga.

The Philippines was supposed to host Groups A and C in the third window of the FIBA ACQ, but the SBP had to pull the plug on it because of the country’s ongoing travel ban on incoming foreigners from countries with known cases of the new variants of the coronavirus.

Group C has New Zealand, Australia, Guam, and Hong Kong.

Doha agreed to accommodate Group A matches, along with those in Group B and E.

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