By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE PHILIPPINE men’s national basketball team plunges back into action today for the fifth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
A two-game leg, Gilas Pilipinas will play both its matches here at home, taking on Kazakhstan today and Iran on Dec. 3. Venue is the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Philippines is currently at third place in the merged Group F of the qualifiers with a 5-3 record, behind group leader Australia (7-1) and Iran (6-2).
Tournament format calls for the top three teams from the two merged groupings advancing to the World Cup proper in China next year.
The Philippine Basketball Association-supported Gilas Pilipinas, now handled by Yeng Guiao of the NLEX Road Warriors, faces off with Kazakhstan today at 7:30 p.m.
Gilas is coming off a split of its games in the fourth window held in September, losing to Iran, 81-73, on September 13, and winning over Qatar, 92-81, on Sept. 17.
Both matches were played behind closed doors as part of the sanctions meted on the Philippines for its role in the infamous brawl with Australia in the third window in July in Bulacan.
On Wednesday, the 12-man team making up the nationals against Kazakhstan was announced.
The players are LA Tenorio, Scottie Thompson, and Japeth Aguilar of Barangay Ginebra, June Mar Fajardo, Marcio Lassiter and Alex Cabagnot of San Miguel, Beau Belga and Gabe Norwood of Rain or Shine, JP Erram of Blackwater, Matthew Wright of Phoenix, and Stanley Pringle of Northport as the naturalized player.
Mr. Guiao said they will be ready against Kazakhstan, whom he has seen play firsthand when the national team he coached played the Kazakhs in the Asian Games in Indonesia early this year.
In the lead-up to the fifth window, Gilas Pilipinas had a series of tune-up matches against teams from Jordan and Lebanon, and Mr. Guiao said they are hoping to make use of what they learned from there in their campaign.
“We have a lot of work to do in the next coming days in the lead-up to our first game. We have to put together all the learnings in this series of tune-up games and try to incorporate them in the games that matter against Kazakhstan and Iran,” Mr. Guiao said.
Gilas Pilipinas versus Kazakhstan will be shown live over TV5 and live stream over espn5.com.