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Gilas Pilipinas shift its focus to FIBA World Cup buildup

DONE with the challenging gold-retrieval in the recent Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) in Cambodia, Gilas Pilipinas redirects its full focus and resources on the buildup for the biggest battle ahead, the FIBA World Cup.

The next three to four months will be crucial as the 40th-ranked Nationals intend to be well-equipped come Aug. 25 against their tough Group A opponents, world No. 10 Italy, No. 23 the Dominican Republic and No. 41 Angola.

In the pipeline are training camps and tuneup matches overseas. Arrangements are being made to hold camp in Lithuania and play a possible pocket tournament and in the US to face US NCAA Division 1 teams.

The intention is to make the 2023 group a better team than the legendary bunch that gave high-profile opponents a run for their money in the 2014 worlds in Spain.

“I think if we come in with the game that we brought in 2014, it’s not gonna be enough. We have to be much, much better. And I hope that from now to then, we can find a way to really become a much better team,” Gilas coach Chot Reyes said.

“We’re not picking the best talent, we’re picking the best team. We are putting a ‘best team’ together. We’re not putting together a group of superstars. We want to pick the best team possible,” he added.

If the Gilas “Redeem Team” in the SEAG encountered manpower problems with stalwarts like June Mar Fajardo, Scottie Thompson, Japeth Aguilar, Jamie Malonzo and the B-League boys out due to injuries or other commitments, Mr. Reyes expects all hands on deck for the WC.

That includes Fil-Am NBA stat Jordan Clarkson, who has committed to train with the Gilas 5, as well as Japan-based regulars like Kai Sotto, Dwight Ramos and the Ravena brothers, Kiefer and Thirdy.

“There’s no problem sa World Cup. There’s a lot of players naman who are available because all of the tournaments all over the world are going to be on hold,” Mr. Reyes said.

“There’s not going to be conflict with any tournaments anywhere. So it’s really a matter now of sitting down with the coaching staff and putting the team together,” he said. The SEAG redemption tour was the last stop before Gilas goes full blast on the World Cup (WC) endeavor.

While the success in Cambodia won’t mean much in the WC gearup, the program could use some feel-good stuff going to the most important tournament.

“Not too much (affect) in the overall scheme of things because this (SEAG squad) is a very different team from the World Cup team, except, you know, just at least we get a reprieve from the people, at least I get some of a reprieve from the people,” said Mr. Reyes. — Olmin Leyba

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