GILAS Pilipinas returned to home soil on Tuesday night as it puts the finishing touches on its buildup for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament next week.
Coming off a grueling 18-day European swing, the Filipino dribblers arrived a little past 7 p.m. at Terminal 1 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport via Turkish Airlines flight TK84.
A warm welcome greeted the 14-man roster as well as the coaching staff led by Tab Baldwin as they all obliged to photo requests from co-passengers, airport employees, and fans before coming out of the arrival area following an almost three-week training camp that saw them lose big to Turkey, 103-68, and Italy, 106-70, before holding off China, 72-69.
"That was a letdown for all of us," Baldwin said of the loss to Turkey. "But I think we responded pretty well. We played much better against Italy, particularly in the second half, and then getting the win against China kind of validated a lot of the work that we have been doing and it made for a much better flight home."
Baldwin, Marc Pingris, Terrence Romeo, and Andray Blatche granted short interviews to members of the media, while Calvin Abueva and LA Tenorio politely declined to talk, understandably so after being the final cuts from the Final 12 roster.
Gilas was on the same flight as the Turkish team led by New Orleans slotman Omer Asik, the team that beat the Pinoys by 35 points in a tune-up match in Istanbul last Tuesday.
The Filipinos host the eighth-ranked Turkish this time on July 1 in another friendly before the qualifier opens on July 5.
Gilas will take the day off on Wednesday before returning to practice the next day.