By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter

WITH their preparation for the FIBA Basketball World Cup officially starting on Monday, national men’s basketball team coach Yeng Guiao urged his wards to answer the call of duty and give their best in training and in the tournament proper.

Admitting it involves a lot of sacrifices on their part, Mr. Guiao said it is very important for the team to have the right perspective to help them in their cause in the world basketball spectacle happening from Aug. 31 to Sept. 15 in China.

“I always remind them that this is a sacrifice. I know a lot of these players play heavy minutes with their mother teams in the PBA (Philippine Basketball Association) and now they have to come in with the national team,” said Mr. Guiao following the first day of practice on Monday night at the Meralco Gym.

“The important thing is to set their mental perspective in how they can embrace the challenge. It’s not easy but this is for the country and we have to respond and do our best to accomplish our mission,” he added.

Mr. Guiao said they already talked to most of the members of the Gilas Pilipinas pool last week in a team meeting where they laid down the ground rules anew and their plans in the lead-up to the World Cup.

“I just wanted to talk to the guys and set our rules again. It’s an orientation we do every time we start with our practices. It’s already customary that we talk prior,” Mr. Guiao said of the meeting that took place last Thursday.

As part of its preparation, Gilas will have twice-a-week practices every Mondays and Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., progressing to daily training eventually and lining up tune-up games abroad.

The team is set to go to Spain on Aug. 4 to play in a pocket tournament against the Spanish national team and some African teams.

Mr. Guiao said for the trip Gilas may need to shore up the pool as some players may not be able to go with the PBA expected to be in the championship rounds by that time.

He said the agreement was that players who are playing in the PBA around that time will stay and those who can go will join the team in Spain.

The fiery coach also shared that the status of guard Jayson Castro with the national team is still to be determined after the player made his desire known to skip the World Cup to attend to some personal matters.

Mr. Guiao said a decision on Mr. Castro’s request will be known within the week along with the list of players making up the World Cup pool.

In the first practice on Monday eight players showed up, namely, June Mar Fajardo, Raymond Almazan, Troy Rosario, Roger Pogoy, Mark Barroca, Marcio Lassiter, Gabe Norwood and Japeth Aguilar.

Mr. Guiao said he expects attendance to improve by the next practice with naturalized player Andray Blatche joining the team by the first week of July.

Gilas Pilipinas qualified for the FIBA World Cup by way of the back door, qualifying as the best fourth-placed team in the qualifiers.

The Philippines is in Group D along with Serbia, Italy and Angola.