GILAS Pilipinas believes defense will be the name of the game in the Fiba World Cup.
No wonder Gilas coach Chot Reyes has put renewed emphasis on defense since the nationals first gathered for training camp in Miami as they prepare for the Philippines' first stint in the world championships since 1978.
Top gun Jeff Chan said training camp has emphasized the need to compensate for Gilas' lack of size with a commitment to play team defense against some of the best teams in the world.
"Kailangan talaga maka-stop tayo, lalo na malalaki at talented sila (kalaban)," said Chan as Gilas left Vitoria, Spain to begin its trip to Antibes, France to play in a four-nation pocket tournament.
"Madami kaming natutunan, lalo na sa defense," Chan added of the Miami training camp, "and everyday, tina-try namin ma-perfect yun, lalo na yung rotation."
Gabe Norwood, Gilas' top wing defender in last year's Fiba Asia men's championships, said Gilas' first three three tune-up matches gave them an opportunity to see how far they have come defensively.
“We’re really focusing on our defense and schemes that fit the strengths of our team,” said Norwood, a three-time All-Defensive team member in the PBA.
Aside from that, Norwood said Gilas is working on adjusting to international play, especially to Fiba referees' more stringent implementation of travelling violations and hand-check calls.
“Traveling has been the biggest adjustment, which we are taking care of. And also being able to defend without using our hands is huge,” he added.
Gilas has gone 3-0 in its tuneup games so far, beating Miami Pro-Am, 95-74 and Elev8 (93-84) in South Beach, before routing ACB Select team, 89-58 in Vitoria last week.
Gilas is bracketed in Group B with powerhouse Argentina, Greece, Croatia, Puerto Rico, and Senegal in the Fiba World Cup, which begins on August 30.