Former national team coach Yeng Guiao said that young players of Gilas Pilipinas training pool should form the core that will see action in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) this year in Belgrade, Serbia.
Guiao said the experience and wisdom the players would gain in the OQT is irreplaceable as they are being groomed to represent the country when the Philippines co-hosts the 2023 FIBA World Cup.
“Ang tingin ko diyan (In my opinion), if we’re going to send a team in the OQT, let’s design it as a preparation also for the FIBA World Cup,” said Guiao when contacted Sunday, Feb. 28, by Manila Bulletin.
“The experience is invaluable because they’ll be playing against some of the best teams in the world. It will really help the prospective players, who we feel Gilas can use for the World Cup.”
Guiao’s comments came after the Philippines was selected by FIBA for the OQT as a replacement to New Zealand, which opted not to participate in the qualifiers set June 29 to July 4 for the Tokyo Olympics.
The country got the spot vacated by the Tall Blacks due to its ranking, the highest among the teams in the Asia-Oceania region. New Zealand skipped the event due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The country, ranked sixth in FIBA’s Asia-Oceania region, is in Group A with host Serbia and the Dominican Republic, while in Group B are Puerto Rico, Senegal and Italy.
The top two teams from each group will advance in the crossover semifinal, and winners will play in the one-game final showdown. The champion team gets the Olympic spot.
Guiao said that facing Serbia and the Dominican Republic would be tough assignments for the national team. Also, the event is set in late June when the NBA season is over.
“That means available na ang mga NBA players by that time (That means NBA players would be available by that time). For example, Serbia, they have four NBA players the last time we played them,” said Guiao, who coached the national team in the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China.
“Also, the teams playing in the OQT, they would want to be in the Tokyo Olympics. Gusto din naman natin makarating ang Gilas sa Tokyo Olympics, pero realistically… hindi naman zero, pero mababa (We also want for Gilas Pilipinas to reach the Tokyo Olympics, but realistically… not zero, but the chances are low).”
“I’m sure these teams, Serbia, Italy, Dominican Republic, they will put a strong team, pukpok ang mga yan pagdating sa OQT (they will do their best for the upcoming OQT).” added Guiao, the mentor of the NLEX Road Warriors in the PBA.
Gilas lost to Serbia 126-67 in that World Cup match up two years ago against a squad made up of Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets, Bogdan Bogdanovic of the Atlanta Hawks, Nemanja Bjelica of the Sacramento Kings, and Boban Marjanovic of the Dallas Mavericks.
The four are expected to be called for national team duties, especially when playing in the Tokyo Olympics is up for grabs.
Guiao said that if the PBA would be involved in forming the national team for the OQT, the ideal is mixing the pros with the amateur players from the Gilas training pool.
The veteran mentor said the likes of June Mar Fajardo of San Miguel Beer and Japeth Aguilar of Barangay Ginebra San Miguel as possible inclusion since both are still good for the 2023 World Cup.
“I think it’s best to put together a strong team, malakas pa din dapat ang ipadala kasi ayaw naman natin na mapahiya tayo sa OQT. At least half of the team PBA and half yung mga (young) players na puwedeng makasama sa World Cup,” he said.
“Pero kapag ginawa yan na 12 players mga beterano, or PBA players, lalakas nga tayo but I don’t think tatalunin natin yung ibang teams. Long term na din dapat ang view natin. I may be wrong, but akin lang yun (If 12 veteran players or PBA players are, involved, yes we’ll be stronger but I don’t think it’s enough to beat other teams. We have to view it long-term. I may be wrong, but that’s my opinion only).”