The Gilas Pilipinas men’s basketball team goes high gear with its buildup for the FIBA Asia Cup after confirming its participation in the 2021 King Abdullah Cup in Jordan scheduled from July 25 to August 3
The event organized by the Jordan Basketball Federation has so far five participating national teams, including the host, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Tunisia.
The national team hopes to use the tournament for its preparation for the Asia Cup on August 17 to 29 in Jakarta, Indonesia. To ready themselves for the tournament in Jordan, the Nationals are back in the training bubble in Calamba, Laguna.
“Entering the bubble is forced on all of us since we are heading to Jordan on the 23rd,” said Gilas men’s team project director and coach Tab Baldwin. “It’s the long-term vision of the program that we have to look at here. We have to take advantage of every minute of games that we can get.”
“We’ll be going up against quality teams with different styles compared to the ones we faced in the Asia Cup Qualifiers.”
Gilas is coming off two tournaments this month, the final window of the Asia Cup Qualifiers where it won all three assignments, including two over South Korea and one against Indonesia in Clark, Pampanga.
The all-amateur national team of Baldwin also played in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) for the Tokyo Olympics held in Belgrade, Serbia against the host team and the Dominican Republic.
The 12-man roster from that OQT team are back in the bubble, including RJ Abarrientos, Justine Baltazar, SJ Belangel, Geo Chiu, Isaac Go, Jordan Heading, William Navarro, Mike Nieto, Carl Tamayo, Dwight Ramos and naturalized player Ange Kouame.
Rejoining the pool from the injured list are Dave Ildefonso, 2019 Gilas special draftees Matt Nieto, Allyn Bulanadi, and Rey Suerte. Also in the pool are Thirdy Ravena, Kenmark Carino, Jaydee Tungcab, and Tzaddy Rangel.
On the other hand, discussions about 7-foot-3 Kai Sotto’s availability for the Abdullah Cup and the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup are currently ongoing between his management team and the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) under its president Al Panlilio.
Baldwin said that the pool is nearing full strength as almost everyone has recovered from injuries.
“Will and Carl are recovering from their respective injuries but should be cleared within the week. Dwight, on the other hand, has fully recovered,” said Baldwin as he hopes to bring 15 of 19 players to Jordan.
SBP Special Assistant to the President (SAP) Ryan Gregorio said that the plan for Gilas is to get enough foreign exposure and tournaments to get it ready before the Asia Cup.
“The SBP wanted the team to get more games so we looked for the best possible option and decided that Jordan will be a great destination,” said Gregorio. “Jordan has always been one of the better teams in Asia so going up against them should be beneficial for our young squad.”
“We’re also looking forward tooto going up against Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Tunisia.”
“The pandemic has made it very difficult to plan tune-up games so when the SBP found out about this possibility, we jumped on it as we know every game played will be helpful towards our goal of building a competitive team not just for the FIBA Asia Cup but for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023. We have full confidence that Gilas will take this opportunity to learn and jell as a unit,” he added.
Aside from Baldwin, other coaches in the Gilas men’s team are PBA champion mentors Jong Uichico and Boyet Fernandez, as well as Sandy Arespacochaga and Sandro Soriano.