Gilas spends final practices sharpening its shooting, both from the line and from afar
Andray Blatche polishes his shooting with assistant coach Norman Black guarding him during Gilas' morning practice before its OQT debut against France.

GILAS Pilipinas did away with the X’s and O’s in its final practices for its all-important showdown against France, instead focusing on sharpening its shooting ahead of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Manila.

All coach Tab Baldwin preached in the team’s two-hour workout at the Mall of Asia Arena on Monday night, and again on in the morning shootaround on Tuesday, is for the Filipinos to be consistent in hitting free throws and outside shots against taller opposition like France.

“It was just a shootaround,” said Baldwin of Gilas’ training on a rainy Monday night, the second team practice for the day after holding one at the Astrodome early in the afternoon.

“It was just shooting particularly our free throw shooting, try to get guys comfortable and rhythmic and improve our percentage because it hasn’t been good all year.”

[See OQT by the numbers]

The Filipinos later had another shootaround in the morning of their game against Les Bleus.

"The team is in high spirit," said deputy coach Jong Uichico shortly after Tuesday's practice, also at the MOA Arena.

It is imperative for Gilas Pilipinas to make their shots, both from the outside and from the free-throw line, if it hopes to have a shot at beating the fifth-ranked Les Bleus in its opening match on Tuesday night.

Baldwin said it would be a combination of the Filipinos playing their best and the French having an off night for the host to get on track their bid to grab the lone berth to the Rio Games staked in this tournament - and a return to the Olympics after a 44-year absence.

The shootaround according to Baldwin, should at least help the Filipinos’ have the "right mindset and shoot a higher percentage."

[See Baldwin on Gilas chance against France: 'If planets align, we have a shot']


Gilas didn’t do particularly well from the foul line during its tune-up match against Turkey last week. The team missed 11 free throws (15 of 26) and lost by only eight points, 84-76, to the Turks.

Overall, Baldwin believes Gilas has covered everything in training, a three-week stretch that saw the team spend nine days holed up in the mountains of Kapernisi, Greece, play a tune-up with Turkey in Istanbul, and then compete in a pocket tournament in Italy where it placed third.

“We’re good. We’re healthy. We don’t have any injury concerns,” stressed the 58-year-old American-New Zealander. “Our preparation has been good. It’s been solid.

“We have to be as ready as we can be. I feel that we have done a great job. The players have done an excellent job.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @gerardmos