Rajko Toroman commends young Gilas squad, but warns of tough assignment in OQT

Published June 19, 2021, 1:14 PM

by Jonas Terrado

Rajko Toroman (FIBA)

Indonesia coach Rajko Toroman spoke highly of the young Gilas Pilipinas squad after his team was on the receiving end of a 76-51 defeat to the host nation Friday, June 18 in the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers at the Angeles University Foundation Sports and Cultural Center in Pampanga.

The former Gilas mentor said following the match that the current batch of players being handled by Tab Baldwin have enough talent and quality to be on the same level as teams in the PBA.

“I can say they are on the same level of PBA teams with the quality of the players and the size you have,” Toroman said in the virtual postgame press conference.

“You have (Ange) Kouame, you have Kai Sotto (and) that’s great size. They can be competitive with everybody and it’s just a matter of time when they’ll show that they are a good team and this program is good,” added Toroman.

Gilas has won all of its two games in the Clark window, the most prominent being SJ Belangel’s buzzer-beating three that beat South Korea, 81-78.

Belangel, Kouame, Sotto, RJ Abarrientos, Justine Baltazar, Carl Tamayo and Dwight Ramos have been some of the Gilas players that have made an impression in the two games, giving Filipino basketball fans hope of a bright future for the all-amateur squad.

But Toroman warned that things may not be the same for the Philippines by the time it competes in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament that will be held in his home country of Serbia.

With Gilas grouped alongside world power Serbia and Dominican Republic, Toroman said the odds are stacked against them but added the OQT stint will serve as a good exposure.

“Don’t expect a miracle in Serbia,” he said. “Because they are not experienced when they play great teams, and Serbia and Dominican Republic are more experienced.

“But (the OQT) should be great because now in corona time (time of COVID-19) you don’t have too much international games and that’s an opportunity to get some experience, some exposure, and I think it should be good whatever the result will be,” added Toroman.

The OQT is set later this month in Belgrade with Gilas facing Serbia on June 30 and Dominican Republic on the following day with the top two teams advancing to the semifinals.