Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipilnas (SBP) president Al Panlilio has encouraged members of Gilas Pilipinas to continue preparing for the third window of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers which may still happen in a different country.
Although the SBP has canceled the hosting of the games due to the travel restrictions of the government for health reasons, Panlilio said that the national team should continue training in Calamba, Laguna.
“At this point, we continue practicing. The February window can still happen,” Panlilio said.
“We’re waiting for FIBA, in the next few days or next week, to give us an indication of what’s going to happen.”
The country was slated to host February 18 to 22 in a bubble tournament in Pampanga Group A – where the Philippines is locked with South Korea, Indonesia and Thailand – and Group C with Australia, New Zealand, Guam and Hong Kong.
But a travel ban notice on countries affected by the new strain of the coronavirus from the National Task Force against COVID-19 through the Department of Foreign Affairs forced the SBP to call the games off.
Nevertheless, FIBA, Panlilio said, is looking for ways to still stage it.
“We are hopeful that we can find a solution,” he said.
“FIBA is doing its best to look for another location where we could play the games. FIBA and the entire international basketball community as a whole has been heavily impacted by the effects of the pandemic but we’re all working to find ways to push through with the games.”
Gilas players have entered the training bubble in Laguna in batches under project director Tab Baldwin. Knowing that the cancellation of the qualifiers here was out of their hands, the national team is focusing on the things it can control.
“This is really a long-term program. We’re building towards the FIBA Basketball World Cup in 2023. This is part of the journey that we have embarked on where we wanted to develop younger players together with veterans from the PBA to create a core team that can be competitive in 2023,” said Panlilio.
“This is not just practicing for the window but we’re looking at building for 2023.”
Another reason to continue training is the possible arrival of Kai Sotto, who recently reiterated his commitment to play for the Philippines next month.
“Kai is committed to join the bubble regardless of whether we play here or elsewhere. He has said that he wanted to be here and we’re in talks with him to try and bring him here as soon as possible,” Panlilio said.
“It’s good for him to come in and also learn the system that we’re trying to implement in the national team to work with his teammates and have a feel of what the system will be. This will help him and help us, looking at 2023, how we can work towards forming a core team that will be competitive in the World Cup.”