AFTER 11 days of familiarizing with one another and coach Tim Cone’s system, it’s time for Gilas Pilipinas to hit the court for an actual game against an international opponent.
The Nationals take on import-flavored Korean club Changwon LG Sakers today (Sept. 22) in a 4 p.m. open tuneup at the PhilSports Arena that serves as their only test before embarking on their Asian Games campaign.
“We really don’t have much time to play a lot of friendly games. To me, the practices are more important than the friendlies or the practice games because we learn more in the practices than the games,” said Mr. Cone.
Gilas was supposed to face Meralco last Tuesday at the Inspire Sports Academy in Laguna but the uncertainties on the status of Calvin Abueva, Jason Perkins, Terrence Romeo and Mo Tautuaa forced the cancelation of that friendly.
Against the Sakers, who are reinforced by Americans Dante Cunningham and Reggie Perry, Egyptian Assem Marei and Pinoy Justin Gutang, should give Gilas a taste of Korean basketball in case it meets Korea in the Hangzhou Games.
“They’re (Sakers) a very, very strong team and they’ll bring a couple of imports, so they’ll be a really good test,” Mr. Cone said recently on One PH’s The Big Story.
“It is strategic in the fact that we wanted to play someone from Korea because there’s a certain rhythm and style that Korea plays in. And if you’re not used to it, it could really be hard to figure out so we wanted to have that opportunity to play a Korean team.”
Mr. Cone wants Gilas fans to catch them in action live and for free before the Nationals leave for China on Saturday.
“We hope that we can fill the stadium up,” said Mr. Cone, who’s team is still awaiting word from Hangzhou organizers whether Mr. Abueva and Co. can go or Chris Ross, Kevin Alas, Arvin Tolentino and CJ Perez will take their spots in the final 12 instead. — Olmin Leyba