GILAS Pilipinas' future begins today as the youthful national team takes its first challenge against a seasoned Thailand squad Friday in the 2021 Fiba Asia Cup qualifiers at Khalifa Sport City in Manama.
It's the first big step for some of the country's top collegiate stars, who many expect to merit strong considerations for the formation of the next national teams, if not for the Philippine team in the 2023 Fiba World Cup here.
Kobe Paras, Justine Baltazar, and Juan Gomez de Liaño banner the bumper crop crew when Gilas takes the court at 9 p.m., with them tasked to hoist the country's flag high and proud in this bubble in Bahrain.
Although experience certainly won't be in favor of this young team, familiarity will be as head coach Jong Uichico and Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) program director Tab Baldwin field in six players from Ateneo, namely Isaac Go, twins Matt and Mike Nieto, Dwight Ramos, Will Navarro, and Dave Ildefonso.
Completing the 12-man roster are Rey Suerte, Javi Gomez de Liano, and Kemark Carino.
Gilas currently sits at second place in Group A with its 1-0 record, riding high from its 100-70 win over Indonesia last February 23.
But what awaits is a dangerous Thai side which is motivated to bounce back from its 93-86 loss to Korea in Seoul in the same playdate in the first window.
Coach Manid Niyomyindee parades an all-local, all-pro Thailand team built from the core players of Hi-Tech Bangkok City, which won the 2020 Thailand Basketball League (TBL) title last August.
TBL Finals MVP Chanatip Jakrawan will lead the charge for the 10-man Thai side as they eye a massive upset in the first of this two-game series.
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