NO less than China will be the first opponent of Smart Gilas-Pilipinas 2.0 when it opens its campaign in the Fiba Asia Cup in Tokyo, Japan three weeks from now.
The Nationals see action on opening day in one of four matches scheduled at the Ota City General Gymnasium on September 14 against China's Team B, comprised mostly of players from the Chinese Basketball Association.
But national coach Chot Reyes is not taking any chances as he tries to sustain the gains of Gilas 2.0's victorious campaign in the recent 34th William Jones Cup basketball tournament in Taipei.
The Fiba Asia Cup, otherwise known as the Stankovic Cup, is a biennial meet sanctioned by world ruling body Fiba.
“We have no illusion. We know it’s going to be more difficult. The competition will become even tougher,” Reyes admitted when asked about the Nationals’ chances in their second international tournament as a team.
Gilas is bracketed in Group A of the 10-team event with China, Lebanon, Uzbekistan, and Macau.
After the Chinese, Gilas takes on defending champion Lebanon on September 15, followed by matches against Uzbekistan (16th) and Macau (17th), respectively.
The Lebanese, the only team to beat the Nationals in the Jones Cup, 91-72, are set to bring in star player Fadi El-Khatib and two other key players to bolster their bid for back-to-back titles, according to team manager Georges Kelzi.
Group B meanwhile, is composed of Iran, Chinese-Taipei, Japan, India, and inaugural champion Qatar.