Gilas Pilipinas offered messages of support as team set to embark on European trip for Olympic qualifier
Gilas Pilipinas was given a send-off Wednesday before it departs for a 21-day European trip as part of its training for next month's Olympic Qualifying Tournament. Jerome Ascano

A SEND-OFF was held for Gilas Pilipinas two days before it embarks on a 21-day training in Europe as part of its preparations for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament here next month.

Officials of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) led by president Manny V. Pangilinan offered messages of support to the team, which now enters the crucial phase of its training program from the July 5-10 qualifier at the Mall of Asia Arena

 The send-off was held at the Novotel, just hours before Gilas Pilipinas went up against Iran in the second of its two-day game at the Smart-Araneta Colisem.

In response, national coach Tab Baldwin hopes the country will rally behind the national squad aiming to make it back to the Olympics after a 44-year absence.

"To the Filipino people, one very simple message. Please, on behalf of our basketball team, keep us in our thoughts, keep us in our prayers, and most importantly, keep us in our hearts," said Baldwin.

Gilas was represented in the event by Baldwin, naturalized player Andray Blatche, stalwarts Gabe Norwood, June Mar Fajardo, Ryan Reyes, and Marc Pingris.

SBP vice-president Al Panlilio was among those who wished Gilas in its campaign.

"Hopefully, we qualify in the Rio Olympics.. I would like to thank the players for their dedication and sacrifice in this effort. No one forced them to be here. They want to be here and represent the country, and for that, maraming salamat," said Panlilio.

PBA commissioner Chito Narvasa for his partm also offered good luck to the national team.

"Allow me to thank the PBA especially the owners, governors, alternate governors, and the 12 teams who allowed the adjustment of its regular schedule and have allowed their players to this task," he said.

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