By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter

PREPARATIONS of the Philippine men’s national basketball team for the FIBA Basketball World Cup further picks up this weekend as it plays the Adelaide 36ers in a pair of tune-up matches.

Gilas Pilipinas takes on the National Basketball League team in closed-door matches at the Meralco Gym set for today (Aug. 23) and Aug. 25 as it winds up its preparations before flying out for the World Cup which begins on Aug. 31 in China.

The Philippine team hopes to sharpen its game in its matches against the 36ers, coached by former Philippine Basketball Association import Joey Wright, who played for the Presto team in the 1990s.

The team also hopes that the games will reinvigorate ties between the Philippines and Australia following the infamous brawl that marred the World Cup qualifiers last year between Gilas and the Boomers at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan.

Gilas is in the homestretch of its girding-up for the basketball spectacle, happening until Sept. 15.

It started slow but picked things up as the weeks went along, even going to Spain to play in a pocket tournament.

This week it has been able to practice with a full complement with June Mar Fajardo, Troy Rosario and Roger Pogoy rejoining the team after being away because of the PBA Finals.

Gilas coach Yeng Guiao said they are expecting a tough battle against the 36ers, who are four-time champions at the NBL in Australia.

“We anticipate good games against Adelaide 36ers. This will be a big help for our preparations because they play high-quality and world class basketball,” said Mr. Guiao at the send-off for Gilas and welcome ceremonies for the 36ers at the Meralco Compound in Pasig on Wednesday.

Mr. Guiao shared that they initially asked to play the Boomers for the tune-up games but due to conflict in schedule it could not be consummated.

In the FIBA World Cup, the Philippines, which is making its second straight appearance, is bracketed in Group D along with Serbia, Italy and Angola in the opening round.

Mr. Guiao said it is going to be an uphill battle for them but vowed to give their all.

“We are in a tough group but we will go to China and give our best. We will represent the Philippines the best way we can,” the national team coach said.

Apart from Messrs. Fajardo, Rosario and Pogoy, part of the Gilas pool for the World Cup are naturalized players Andre Blatche, Christian Standhardinger and Stanley Pringle as well as Japeth Aguilar, CJ Perez, Robert Bolick, Gabe Norwood, Paul Lee, Mark Barroca, Beau Belga, Poy Erram, Marcio Lassiter, Matthew Wright, Raymond Almazan and Kiefer Ravena.

Also included in the 19-man pool is Filipino-American National Basketball Association guard Jordan Clarkson.

The final Gilas Pilipinas lineup for the World Cup is expected to be announced after the last tune-up game against the Adelaide 36ers on Sunday.