Health will be a major concern for Gilas Pilipinas when it tries to defend its home court against the visiting India on Sunday, July 3, in the third window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Already without naturalized center Ange Kouame who was sidelined by a meniscal sprain and partial ACL tear, the national team is keeping its finger crossed on the ankle injury of sweet-shooting forward Carl Tamayo.
Tamayo, the lone bright spot for Gilas in its blowout 106-60 loss to New Zealand last Thursday, remains questionable in the 7 p.m. clash against India, leaving stand-in coach Nenad Vucinic with only 10 healthy bodies to work with.
The national team didn’t also have the benefit of a rest after a grueling trip from Auckland to Manila. Gilas arrived on Friday night and immediately hit the gym on Saturday to prepare for the game against the new-look Indian team which will be bannered by two NBA Academy India prospects in 6-foot-7 forward Pranav Prince and 7-foot-2 center Aryan.
India will also have a few more 6-foot-8 players in Prashat Singh Rawat, Amarendra Navak and Pratyanshu Tomar. Veterans Vishesh Briguvanshi and Muin Bek Hafeez, meanwhile, are tasked to take the lead for their team in hopes to erase the bitter taste of their 88-64 loss at the hands of the Filipinos in the second window last February.
Gilas, for its part, is eager to bounce back from the dismal showing against the Tall Blacks where the entire team struggled offensively with Tamayo and Rhenz Abando being the only double-digit scorers with 16 and 11 points respectively.
The Filipinos also struggled from beyond the arc with a measly 4-of-26 clip with usual shooters in Dwight Ramos, SJ Belangel and RJ Abarrientos combining for a lackluster 1-of-14 shooting.
Pressure will also be on Gilas’ remaining big men in Will Navarro, Geo Chiu and Kevin Quiambao as they try to hold the fort against India’s towering frontline without Kouame and possibly Tamayo.