A WELL-KNOWN Filipino sports medicine expert has offered words of caution as a spate of injuries begin to take its toll on Gilas Pilipinas as it crams in its buildup for next week’s Fiba World Cup.
Jimbo Saret expressed alarm over the way injuries have hounded the nationals just as they approach the final stretch of a buildup packed full with tune-up games against top opposition shortly after a training camp in Miami.
“It’s really alarming. But there’s no other recourse, cramming na sila eh. Yan ang pros and cons ng situation ng Gilas,” said Saret, a Brigham-Young university trained fitness guru and the only MS Sports Medicine holder in the country.
“Pag kasi sunud-sunod ang laro, may risk ng wear and tear sa body ng players. Mataas ang epekto na magka-injuries,” he added.
With only a little over a month to prepare for the World Cup following a crammed PBA season, Gilas coach Chot Reyes has come up with a long list of tune-up games for Gilas Pilipinas in the road to Spain.
In a little less than a month since leaving the country, the team has already played two pick-up games in Miami, Florida, a scrimmage against the ACB selection in Vitoria, Spain, before it joined a four-nation pocket tournament in Antibes, France.
Gilas has now dropped five games in a row after a loss to Angola on Friday, with more tune-up games against Dominican Republic and Egypt still to come.
There could have been more tune-up games for the nationals had the scheduled showdowns with Angola (August 8) and Mexico (August 23), not been called off.
The France pocket tournament proved costly for the team as naturalized center Andray Blatche and star guard Paul Lee suffered injuries, while Jason Castro sustained an Achilles injury in Gilas’ tuneup match against Euskadi in Italy last Tuesday.
The packed schedule is a gamble that Gilas has no choice but to take, Saret said.
“Meron talagang pros and cons. Pero we can’t blame them. Preparation time is very close, unlike dati na three years in the making (ang Gilas program),” explained Saret, who served as the conditioning coach of the original Smart Gilas under Serbian coach Rajko Toroman.
However, Saret believes it is not too late for the coaching staff to ease off a bit as far as pushing the team is concerned.
“Siguro the most they can do is minimize 'yung further injuries. If you’re preparing for the world championship, dapat they have to be able to pace off the players ngayon para may time to recover `yung mga injured,” he said.
With the event fast approaching, Saret said the choice is now down to Reyes and his staff.
“Kasi malapit na ang world championship eh. Ngayon high level ang mga tuneup (games). As a coach, do you want to push everyone during the tune-up and risk it, or do you want to hold back a little bit?” he asked.
“Ang problema naman sa holding back, makukulangan ka sa exposure,” he said. “Alam naman nating lahat na preparation time is maiksi unlike sa dating Gilas.”
But if he’s to be asked, Saret insisted Gilas should hold back.
“I would rather hold back, at least you have your players, kesa naman i-push mo sila ngayon, mai-injure, pagdating ng game day half ka na lang. And the team is not one hundred percent,” he said.
“Ang basic rule naman sa athletes is you have to be one hundred percent during the most important day of the games. So hundred percent ka dapat sa game day. So it’s up to the coach.”
“Kaso nga, nakukulangan sila ng exposure, so wala talaga silang choice,” Saret added.
The fitness trainer said holding back a little in tune-up matches should work in Gilas' favor.
“Dapat one hundred percent sila sa game day. So save yourself for the game, kesa training ka ng training pero pagdating sa laban, injured ka, useless din,” he said.
“You should prepare yourself more for game day or you should be ready more for game day. Ready to give out 200 percent during game day. Tune-up lang naman yan eh,” he added.