GILAS Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes was quick to give credit where credit is due.
The national mentor had nothing but praise for the core of the cadet players who blended seamlessly with their pro counterparts in an 80-72 win over Shanghai Sharks during the Philippines-China Friendship Games on Monday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
While Gary David, Japeth Aguilar, Jun Mar Fajardo, and Gabe Norwood combined for 45 points, it was the members of the cadet training pool who were responsible for galvanizing the national team during a huge second-quarter breakaway.
After a shaky Gilas start, the cadet players helped put together a 10-0 run against the Sharks which Garvo Lanete sparked by converting on back-to-back hits.
It was also Lanete who gave the Nationals their biggest lead at 71-52 following another three-pointer.
The former San Beda star guard finished with 10 points.
“Garvo was shooting, RR (Garcia) was shooting, Greg (Slaughter) was holding his own. Wala akong masabi sa mga ‘yun. For them to put themselves out there with three days practice to play against a team like that, that’s a tremendous testament,” Reyes said.
The national coach credited the cadets' play to two tournaments they joined earlier in the year in Dubai and Hong Kong, where they eventually won the Super Kung Sheung Cup Championship.
“Nagpa-bugbog kami sa Dubai, tapos nanalo kami sa Hong Kong. Now, they are comfortable playing with each other. It’s (because) of the program. It’s not the individual personalities. It’s the program,” said Reyes.
At the same time, Reyes was also elated with the way the PBA players and members of the cadet team adjusted and played as a unit in such a short span of time.
“The program was in full display tonight for the team of pros of Gilas to be able to play with the cadets almost seamlessly,” he said.
“I think this is a testament to the direction the program is taking.”
Reyes said the game hardly reflected the fact that the team only had three days to prepare for the Sharks, especially with some players coming in all the way from Digos, Davao Del Sur where they took part in the PBA All-Star festivities.
“Nagkita-kita na lang today. In fact, we have to remind them in our pre-game meeting. And I thought when we played them in combination, they played well,” Reyes said.