TAIPEI - Canada coach Kyle Julius has done enough scouting on Gilas Pilipinas that he could readily tell that this is a group of mostly young players flying the flag for the Philippines in the 39th Jones Cup.
"You can tell that it is working players in, working on development," Julius said after his hastily formed selection of players from all around Canada dealt Gilas a 90-77 setback in the two teams' debut at the Taipei Heping Gymnasium on Saturday afternoon.
"I've seen that this team is talented, that it plays tough," Julius, a former national player back home, continued, although he was quick to add that he has seen a lot of tapes from past Gilas games to know that this was a far different team from what he expected.
"I've watched a lot of (Gilas) games from the past and I was incredibly impressed. The team that I saw was extremely well-coached, it plays real well," he added.
"I will be afraid to play against their best players."
This Gilas team, of course, is far younger than the national team led by LA Tenorio and Jimmy Alapag that ruled this annual showpiece in 2012 or the Gilas side coached by Tab Baldwin that finished runner-up to Iran in 2015.
Gilas coach Chot Reyes readily admitted in his post-game interview that this team is geared more for the future, saying the priority at this time is to expand the pool of talent in the national pool, especially with the new qualifying format for the World Cup.
"This is part of the program; the aim is to continiously upgrade the pool of talent, that's why we have young guys. It's a conscious effort on our part to expand the national pool," said Reyes. "It's important to have a lot of players to rely on for the national team."
But that doesn't mean Gilas didn't come here to win, Reyes said.
"The point is to develop, learn, and grow. that's the more important goal right now. But inspite of having young team, we're going all out to win. That's part of the learning process also," he said.
"We're not happy that we lost, but we understand it's part of the process."
Gilas looked jagged and sloppy in its debut against Canada, but Reyes is certain this batch of players - made up of mostly PBA rookies and amateur standouts led by Kobe Paras and Kiefer Ravena - can do well if kept together for a longer time.
"This is a special group of players that, if kept together for long period, can do a lot of good for the country," Reyes said.