GILAS Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes — FIBA.BASKETBALL

THE BATTLEFIELD in the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup now defined, Gilas Pilipinas’ next task is to formulate a program specifically designed to make the Nationals competitive against their group opposition.

And Gilas coach Chot Reyes is looking at the highly-productive 2014 WC buildup as a model.

The 40th-ranked Pinoy cagers are ranged against No. 10 Italy, No. 23 the Dominican Republic and No. 41 Angola — familiar faces who defeated them in previous tournaments — in Group A of the Aug 25 to Sept. 10 global hoopfest.

“The best way to describe it is: It’s not ideal but it could have been better,” said Gilas coach Chot Reyes after determining their foes Saturday night.

Mr. Reyes admitted he hoped to have drawn Ivory Coast, which he felt was a better matchup for Gilas, instead of Angola, which got the better of their group matchup in the 2019 World Cup in China, 84-81 in overtime.

“It is what it is. The good thing is now, we have some clarity on who we’re playing and what kind of preparation is necessary to be at our best come August,” he said.

“Obviously, now, the next phase is to take a look at the teams we’re playing and to build a team that we think can compete with the players we know will be in the other teams,” he added.

Italy, which routed Gilas by 46 points in the 2019 world meet, may bring in NBA players like Simone Fontecchio, Danilo Gallinari and Paolo Banchero. The Dominican Republic, which beat the Philippines in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament last year, 94-67, also has troops from the NBA like Al Horford and Karl-Anthony Towns they may tap.

“Italy is ranked 10th in the world so we know that will be a very tough game. The Dominican Republic game will be difficult especially if Karl Anthony Towns is able to play. Angola will be doable but even that game will be a challenge,” noted Meralco coach Norman Black.

“If our best players are available and we are able to have an intense training program, you couple that with home court advantage and we should have a fighting chance to advance to the second round,” he added.

Mr. Reyes said the Philippine quintet is eyeing camp and quality tune-up matches overseas by June similar to the preparations for the 2014 World Cup (WC) campaign, which greatly helped Gilas give tough opponents a run for their money. “At the end of the day, it’s going to be determined by how well we can prepare, how well we get to gather the players together and how many quality tune-up games we can get before the actual World Cup,” he said.

“That’s what we’re able to do in 2014, right? I thought we’re able to put in a very good tune-up preparation schedule that when the World Cup came, we’re playing at a very high level. So hopefully, we can get to that level as well this time,” he added.

PBA commissioner Willie Marcial, meanwhile, is upbeat Gilas can get the job done. — Olmin Leyba