HOPES are up as Gilas Pilipinas flies to Japan today in its quest to win its first game in the FIBA World Cup qualifiers.
With the arrival of naturalized import Andray Blatche last Saturday night, the Nationals got the boost that they’re looking for and now carries a higher morale leading up to the pivotal games ahead.
Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes is very optimistic of his team’s chances in this very critical week as the team gets set to unleash its arsenal against its Asian rivals.
“I think we have a very good chance against Japan and Chinese Taipei,” said Reyes.
The Philippines plays Japan first this Friday there and then goes back home right away to take on Chinese Taipei three days later in Manila.
Still, Reyes is wary of certain conditions in Japan.
“The weather condition is a challenge there as well as the crowd,” said Reyes.
But once back home, Reyes sees his team having all advantages.
“I like our chances and our situation when we get back home against Chinese Taipei. We’re used to the conditions and we’ll have more chemistry, hopefully, by then,” he added.
Along with the Philippines, Japan and Chinese Taipei in the Group B bracket is Australia.
While Blatche is a shoo-in for a spot, the other 11 slots are wide open and Reyes will submit his final line-up on the eve of the team’s first game against Japan.
Reyes is upbeat that he and the coaching staff will be able to come up with a competitive lineup.
“Our hope in the coaching staff is that we will be able to put up a good team and the best game plan possible,” said Reyes.
The 6’11” Blatche, a many-time veteran of the NBA, arrived Saturday night and immediately joined the team’s practice sessions.
His return to Gilas was delayed as he played in the final two Chinese Basketball Association regular season games of the Xinjiang Flying Tigers, where he is an import.
Another player, 7’1” Isaiah Austin, was supposed to join Gilas, but he is tied up with the Yulon Luxgen Dinos in the Taiwan Super League.
Gilas has been deep in training over the past week, scoring its second straight win in a tune-up game after beating the NLEX Road Warriors, 95-87, Saturday morning at the Meralco Gym.
Going to Japan for their first matchup are Matthew Wright, Roger Pogoy, Kevin Alas, Alain Maliksi, Troy Rosario, Raymund Almazan, Kiefer Ravena, Japeth Aguilar, Junemar Fajardo and Gabe Norwood.
Jason Castro is absent with Calvin Abueva and Terrence Romeo because of back spasms. Abueva has a fever, while Romeo is recovering from a bruised knee. With Peter Atencio