THE GILAS PILIPINAS men’s team made up of cadets is hard in training at the INSPIRE Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna, and is excited to plunge into action and represent the country. — INSPIRE SPORTS ACADEMY FB PAGE

THE Gilas Pilipinas men’s team continues with its preparation for two tough international competitions slated for the middle of this year.

This was shared by Ryan Gregorio, assistant to the president of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), in his session on The Chasedown television program on Saturday, saying all members of the pool are cooperating to have the possible representation for the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers and the Olympic Qualifying Tournament next month.

The team made up of Gilas cadets is hard in training at the INSPIRE Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna, and is excited to plunge into action and represent the country.

“They have been in the bubble for three to four weeks already,” said Mr. Gregorio. “They temporarily broke camp for the players to be reenergized but they are to reenter in five days’ time and resume training on May 22.”

Upon return, the team is expected to pick up their training further before entering the “bubble” tournament for the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Asia Cup Qualifiers in Clark, Pampanga, on June 13.

The nationals are to compete in the third and final window of the qualifiers set for June 16 to 20 where they will seek to formalize their entry into the FIBA Asia Cup in their games versus Korea (June 16 and 20) and Indonesia (June 18).

Gilas currently leads Group A with an unblemished 3-0 record, followed by Korea (2-0), Indonesia (1-2) and Thailand (0-4).

After the Asia Cup Qualifiers, the national team then competes in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Serbia from June 29 to July 4.

The Philippines plays in Group A along with the Dominican Republic and Serbia. Group B, meanwhile, has Puerto Rico, Italy, and Senegal. One Olympic spot is up for grabs in the tournament.

Part of the Gilas player pool are Matt Nieto, Mike Nieto, Isaac Go, Dwight Ramos, Rey Suerte, Jordan Heading, William Navarro, Tzaddy Rangel Jaydee Tungcab, Kemark Carino, Javi Gomez de Liaño, Dave Ildefonso, SJ Belangel, RJ Abarrientos, Carl Tamayo, Justine Baltazar, Jason Credo, Geo Chiu, Lebron Lopez, and naturalized player candidate Angelo Kouame.

The pool is training under the guidance of Gilas Pilipinas program director Tab Baldwin, and coaches Jong Uichico, Sandy Arespacochaga, Boyet Fernandez, Caloy Garcia, Alton Lister, Sandro Soriano and Dex Aseron.

Mr. Gregorio said they appreciate the sacrifice the players and coaches are giving to be part of the team and their cooperation to what the SBP is putting in to make its program “sustainable.”

As to the federation’s preparation for hosting the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers here, the SBP official said the process is ongoing despite the challenges presented by the pandemic.

“The SBP is trying to make sure everything is cleared for the hosting. Duties have been deputized for proper coordination. We are in the process of asking for needed documentation from the federations who will compete here. It has been challenging because of the pandemic, but we are confident of having it done,” he said.

They are also appreciative of the approval they got from the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to proceed with the qualifiers, which were set to take place initially in February but had to be canceled because of the emergence of new variants of the coronavirus.

Aside from Group A, the Clark bubble will also host games in Groups B and C. All the matches will be played behind closed doors as part of health and safety protocols. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo