By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
WITH the FIBA Basketball World Cup in China less than three months away, the Philippine national men’s basketball team is girding to get its preparations going, looking to put in as much practice time as possible to have a competitive showing in the global hoops spectacle.
Backed by the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) anew, Gilas Pilipinas will begin twice-a-week practices beginning today, progressing to daily training eventually and lining up tune-up games abroad as part of its build-up for the World Cup.
“First consideration for us is we want the team to be able to get in enough practice days [in the lead-up]. But it is going to be a balancing act with the PBA schedule,” shared national team coach Yeng Guiao following his NLEX Road Warriors’ PBA game on Friday.
“So our once-a-week practice we made it twice a week beginning Monday (today) until August. And by August we hope to do every day practices already,” he added.
Aside from Monday, Gilas is also to do practices on Thursday.
The fiery coach, who took over the team last year, said they are set to go to Spain in August where they are to see action against the Spanish national team as well as some African teams.
Mr. Guiao expects the Spain training to help their cause as they are going up against opponents featuring world-class talents and should be a good gauge of their progress as a team.
After that, the team returns to the country and continue practicing, building on the learnings from Spain before flying to China for the tournament proper, happening from Aug. 31 to Sept. 15.
“So that is the plan. When we come back here, again [from Spain], we will reset and see how we can make adjustments and improve based on the tune-up games and then on Aug. 27 we fly to China. I don’t know if we can still get scrimmages in China, if not, then we will practice by ourselves,” the coach said.
“I think this is the best plan wherein we will have the practices needed and at the same not disrupt too much the schedule of the PBA,” Mr. Guiao said.
The PBA Commissioner’s Cup is currently ongoing and is set to reach the championship rounds come August.
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.
The other groupings are composed of Cote d’Ivoire, Poland, Venezuela and host China in Group A; Russia, Argentina, Korea and Nigeria in Group B; Spain, Iran, Puerto Rico and Tunisia in Group C; Turkey, Czech Republic, USA and Japan in Group E; Greece, New Zealand, Brazil and Montenegro in Group F; Dominican Republic, France, Germany and Jordan in Group G; and Canada, Senegal, Lithuania and Australia in Group H.
FIBA World Cup format calls for the top two teams from the eight groupings in the first round advancing to the second phase. From there the teams are further weeded out until the top two teams are left to contest the title.