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Gilas Pilipinas to focus on August FIBA Asia Cup

FOLLOWING its spirited run at the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT), Gilas Pilipinas will now focus on its campaign in the Asia Cup in August.

The national men’s basketball team arrived back from the OQT in Serbia at the weekend and is undergoing quarantine before plunging back to work for its next tournament happening in Jakarta, Indonesia.

In the FIBA Asia Cup, the Philippines will be one of 13 teams seeing action.

It booked its spot in the continental tournament by completing a sweep of all its six matches in the three-window qualifiers.

Gilas paraded different versions during its qualifying campaign but sent an all-cadet squad for the last two windows, which admirably performed well.

In the third and final window in June in Clark, Pampanga, the team fashioned out quality victories over Korea (twice) and Indonesia, led by the likes of naturalized player Ange Kouame, collegiate standouts Dwight Ramos, SJ Belangel and Justine Baltazar, and Kai Sotto.

For the OQT it paraded the same team, which also included Will Navarro, RJ Abarrientos, Jordan Heading, Carl Tamayo, Isaac Go, Mike Nieto and Geo Chiu.

And while the team wound up with a 0-2 record in the OQT, it turned heads by being competitive, even forcing host Serbia to the limit before bowing down.

On their campaign in Indonesia, Gilas program director and coach Tab Baldwin said the team will take a much-needed break first before getting together anew to prepare for the Asia Cup later this month.

He said the lineup of the team for the tournament is still to be determined in discussions in the coming weeks with the top basketball officials in the country as well as other stakeholders.

“We haven’t discussed that with the players or with the other basketball stakeholders like the collegiate teams and the PBA (Philippine Basketball Association) teams who have our draftees,” said Mr. Baldwin after their FIBA OQT campaign ended on Friday. “We don’t know yet.”

He, however, said that their FIBA Asia Cup preparation will most likely be done under a “bubble” setup anew at the INSPIRE Sports Academy in Laguna.

For both the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers and OQT, Gilas spent considerable time inside the Calamba bubble under strict health and safety protocols.

The FIBA Asia Cup happens from Aug. 17 to 29.

Apart from Gilas and host Indonesia, other nation teams seeing action in the tournament are Iran, Korea, Syria, Australia, Japan, Lebanon, Bahrain, Jordan, New Zealand, China and Kazakhstan.

Meanwhile, Serbia and Italy will dispute the lone Olympic spot up for grabs in the Belgrade OQT where Gilas competed in.

Serbia and Italy face off in the finals set for Monday. The former defeated Puerto Rico, 102-84, in the crossover semifinals on Saturday while the latter beat the Dominican Republic, 79-59. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo

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