Gilas shifts focus on OQT prep

Published June 20, 2021, 11:11 PM

by Jonas Terrado

Gilas Pilipinas (FIBA photo)

Gilas Pilipinas has no plans of resting on its laurels following an impressive run in the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers as focus now shifts on preparations for next week’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade, Serbia.

Coach Tab Baldwin said Gilas will head back to training Tuesday, June 22 before leaving for the Serbian capital for the OQT where the odds are stacked heavily against the young cagers who’ll face the host country and Dominican Republic in Group A.

“So we still have a lot of work to do,” said Baldwin after Gilas’ 82-77 victory over South Korea Sunday, June 20 at the Angeles University Foundation Sports and Cultural Center in Pampanga.

“They’ve earned a day off so they get a Monday off, but Tuesday we’ll be back at work,” he added.

That is why Baldwin hopes that a possible tune-up with China could materialize while both teams are still in the Clark bubble.

China, which also played in the Clark bubble and won all four matches to top Group B, has plans to remain in the country before heading to Canada for the OQT.

“In terms of the importance of the game, every game that we can get for these young men is extremely important and it will help us prepare,” he said.

“China’s an elite Asian team so if we get a chance to play them, that would be great for us,” he added.

As far as rosters are concerned, Baldwin said the 12-man lineup for the OQT will be taken from the players who suited up in the just-concluded continental qualifiers.

Gilas played in Pampanga without several members of the Gilas pool, including point guard Matt Nieto and swingman Rey Suerte due to injuries.

Unlike the Asia Cup Qualifiers where teams can change lineups every game, the 12 players who will be named for the OQT will be the ones allowed to play for the duration of the competition.

“The players that we have here in this bubble are the players that will go to Serbia,” Baldwin said. “We have to leave one or two players behind but the 12 that we select to play will be taken from this group.”

Fifteen players suited up in the qualifiers, namely Dwight Ramos, Ange Kouame, Kai Sotto, RJ Abarrientos, SJ Belangel, Justin Baltazar, Jordan Heading, Carl Tamayo, Isaac Go, Will Navarro, Jaydee Tungcab, Mike Nieto, Geo Chiu, Javi Gomez de Liano and LeBron Lopez.