ONE of the PBA's toughest players is convinced this batch of Gilas Pilipinas won't back down from anybody in the qualifiers for the 2019 Fiba World Cup.
Beau Belga admitted the national team will be facing tough competition, especially against Australia, in a group that also has Japan and Chinese Taipei, but feels the team's toughness is at a par with anybody in the world.
“Yung Taipei, Japan, medyo kaya 'yun. Dun lang sa Australia medyo maghe-hesitate ka, kasi iba yung kalidad ng Australia eh; lagi silang qualified sa Olympics, sa World Cup,” the Rain or Shine enforcer said on Thursday after Gilas' tune-up game against the E-Painters. “Kahit may naturalized ka pa, iba yung talent, skills ng Australia sa atin eh, plus malalaki.”
“Pero yung puso, kung laban, lalaban at lalaban,” he was quick to add, as shown by Carl Cruz refusing to back down against Don Trollano in a fistfight that marred the tune-up game.
Belga knows that heart and toughness of Gilas, being a member of the national pool and the final cut of the team that bagged the silver in the 2013 Fiba Asia Championship that paved the way for the country's return to the world stage the following year.
Asked to compare that 2013 team and other nationals teams to the latest crop of players, Belga believes this team is the most talented in recent years, although he lamented the absence of injured Terrence Romeo, who's out with a knee injury.
“I think so, pero syempre wala si Terrence,” Belga said. “Malaking bagay si Terrence eh, kasi he can break down (defenses). Pero nandyan pa naman si Jayson eh, plus you have a lot of veterans – June Mar, Japeth, si Jayson, Gabe, tapos sila Calvin. Siguro hindi naman lugi sa talent pag dating sa Fiba.”
“Malaking bagay pag nandyan na si Andray (Blatche),” he added. “Plus, maganda yung tinatakbo nilang offense ngayon, kasi yun lang naman ang magiging advantage nila eh, kasi halos lahat ng makakalaban nila puro malalaki, so speed ang kailangan talaga.”
With the talent and the toughness of this team, Belga is optimistic Gilas can make surprises in the qualifiers.
“Siguro may chance,” Belga said. “Makalusot lang. Hindi mo naman alam, 'di ba? Makalusot ka lang dito, hindi mo alam kung ano mangyayari. New Zealand, kahit papaano, medyo kaya. Sa Australia lang talaga ako medyo hesitant, kasi iba eh, lalo na pag naglaro yung mga taga-NBA.”