JONES Cup hero LA Tenorio said early matches against China and Lebanon in next week's Fiba Asia Cup will gives Smart Gilas 2.0 a good idea on where the team is in its buildup for the Asian championships next year.
Tenorio knows traditional regional powers China and Lebanon will be among the toughest tests for Gilas in the September 14-22 tournament, even if the Chinese will be fielding their 'B' team in Tokyo.
According to reports, the mainland's national team has been disbanded after failing to advance to the knockout stage in the last Olympics in London and the squad it will be sending to Tokyo is being groomed to take its place.
“Malakas pa din ang China kahit na 'B' team lang yung makakalaban namin. Yun din kasi ang Under-19 team nila na hinahanda na as early as now for the 2016 Olympics (in Brazil),” Tenorio told Spin.ph.
While the competition would be a lot tougher compared to the Jones Cup in Taipei, Tenorio sees the Tokyo tournament as an opportunity to sustain the gains of the team and adjust better to the grind of playing a game every day.
“Mahirap talaga yung mag-twice a day practice. Lahat kami napapagod din, pero malaki ang tulong nun kasi mas kundisyon kami, lalo na since araw-araw may laro kami (in the Fiba Asia Cup),” said Tenorio, who was recently dealt by Alaska to Ginebra in a blockbuster trade.
The cat-quick guard out of Ateneo said as a point guard, it’s a lot easier to play with the current batch of Gilas because of the slew of outside shooters. He also singled out Gabe Norwood as one of the team’s most consistent performers.
“Si Gabe maganda talaga ang nilalaro, fit siya talaga maglaro sa international games. Saka masarap maglaro sa team kasi bukod kay Gabe, marami pang ibang shooters tayo gaya ni Jeff Chan, Larry (Fonacier), Gary David saka si Ranidel (de Ocampo,” said Tenorio.
On the other hand, Sonny Thoss, Tenorio’s former teammate at Alaska, said they are now preparing different defensive patterns against the taller and bigger opponents they expect to face in Tokyo.
“We still have a lot to work on with our defense. Such adjustments are needed since our opponents are bigger and stronger than us,” said Thoss.
As the chief backup of naturalized Filipino Marcus Douthit, the 6’7” Thoss said he also has to work on his individual defense and even his perimeter jump shots.
“I’ve been shooting jumpers a lot, and I hope they would really fall during the game,” added Thoss.
Coming off a 78-71 win in a tune-up against the Qatar national squad on Saturday night at the Ynares Center in Pasig City, Gilas will have its last practice at the Philsports Arena in Pasig on Monday night. The team takes a day off on Tuesday before leaving for the Japanese capital on Wednesday afternoon.
The top three teams in the Fiba Asia Cup get automatic slots in the Fiba Asia men’s championships, which the Philippines is bidding to host next year.