NO less than the head coach of the Gilas Pilipinas team admitted the cadets competing in the Fiba Asia Challenge Cup next month faces a mountain to climb in the absence of a national player.
"Definitely mahihirapan kami. Wala namang nagsasabing magiging madali ito," said coach Josh Reyes, who has taken the coaching reins of the national team in lieu of Tab Baldwin who is busy with Ateneo's buildup for the UAAP.
"Ang dami ngang nagsulat na trial by fire ito. Well, it's really trial by fire. We're pushing them in deep waters and see who can stay afloat," he added.
Aside from that, there is also the issue on availability of the top players, which could keep the coaching staff from forming the best lineup possible among the 24 players named to the pool.
In fact, big names like Kiefer Ravena and Bobby Ray Parks, and PBA players JP Erram and Matt Ganuelas-Rosser were absent in Friday's practice at the Meralco Gym.
"It's a matter of availability. A lot of good players are unavailable for different reasons," he said.
Reyes, the son of former Gilas coach Chot, said fans have to temper their expectations given the situation they are in.
But that doesn't mean they won't go all out when the showpiece unfurls on September 9 in Iran.
"It may seem unfair but thats really the situation right now. So it's unfair to expect a lot from these kids but at the same time, the only way to gain experience and exposure is to play these games," said Reyes.
"We just have to make do and do the best that we can to prepare and hopefully be able to compete."