Gilas battles Thailand twice in Bahrain bubble

Published November 24, 2020, 1:53 PM

by Waylon Galvez

Gilas Pilipinas plays only two games when the national team clashes against Thailand twice in the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers inside a bubble on Nov. 26 to 30 in Manama, Bahrain.

After clarifications made by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) led by its president Al Panlilio, FIBA announced the final schedule for the two groups – A and D – in the qualifiers.

The national team is in Group A alongside South Korea, Indonesia and Thailand, although the Koreans are not participating in the said event due to the COVID-19 situation.

That leaves only three teams for the group.

Although the Indonesians are appearing in the tournament, FIBA decided to reschedule the game between the Philippines and Indonesia – or back to its original schedule of February 2021.

Nevertheless, the final schedule was a welcome development for Gilas Pilipinas, which left for Bahrain last Sunday facing questions of which teams they will face in the FIBA restart.

“It makes it simpler, but it’s not easy,” said Jong Uichico, who has been appointed head coach of the national team by the SBP for the second window of FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers.

The national team plays Thailand first on Friday, and again on Monday.

Instead of just 13 players, Uichico and the coaching staff, which also include Gilas project director Tab Baldwin and Boyet Fernandez, opted to bring 15 – including ace shooter Allyn Bulanadi.

The former San Sebastian star injured his knee during practice session here, although his inclusion to the Bahrain bubble opens the possibility of him being named in the final 12 as he continues to recover.

Of the original 16-man team named to the training pool, only naturalized prospect Angelo Kouame did not join the trip.

Aside from Bulanadi, leading Gilas are PBA rookie draft picks Isaac Go, Matt and Mike Nieto, and Rey Suerte.

Joining them are collegiate stalwarts Kobe Paras, Calvin Oftana, Justin Baltazar, Kenmark Carino, Dave Ildefonso, Will Navarro, Jaydee Tungcab, and Gomez de Liano brothers Juan and Javi.