WITH players’ focus divided between club and country, Smart Gilas 2.0 has had a ragged buildup for the Fiba Asia Cup but remains hopeful of picking up from where it left off in the Jones Cup.
Coach Chot Reyes said Gilas had better preparation for the Jones Cup last month compared to their buildup for the Tokyo tournament, with most of its players on loan to the national squad but still required to train with their mother clubs every day.
Before winning the country's first Jones Cup title in 14 years with a 7-1 win-loss run in Taipei, practice had not yet started among PBA ballclubs and Gilas had all the time to work on their plays and chemistry.
“We haven’t had some progress the past week because of the two-a-day practice the players have with their (PBA) mother teams and then with Gilas. So we’re just going to hope for the best in the Asia Cup,” Reyes told Spin.ph ahead of the team's departure for the September 14-22 tournament.
The team took Tuesday off before departing on Wednesday for the Tokyo tournament, where it will be bracketed with powerhouse squads China and Lebanon in the eliminations.
Ranged against taller, heftier opponents, Reyes said Gilas needs to have its shooting spot-on but most of all must use its speed to its advantage just like it did in a 78-71 win over Qatar's national team in a practice game on Saturday at the Ynares Center in Pasig City.
“Yes, we have shooters, but our opponents there also have shooters. So the only thing we can bank on is our speed,” Reyes said.
Jones Cup MVP LA Tenorio again leads the team that features Gabe Norwood, Larry Fonacier, Ranidel de Ocampo, Jeff Chan, Jay-R Reyes, Enrico Villanueva, Gary David, naturalized player Marcus Douthit, Matt Rosser and Sonny Thoss.
Talk ’N Text forward Jared Dillinger takes the spot of Meralco Bolts Fil-American guard Sol Mercado, who is not eligible to play for the Philippines under Fiba’s strict rules even if he had suited up for the original Gilas team under Rajko Toroman in the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou.
Alaska’s Mac Baracael and amateur Garvo Lanete, members of the 14-man Jones Cup team, also did not make the roster although Lanete will still join the trip as a reserve.
The top three teams in the Fiba Asia Cup get automatic slots in the Fiba Asia men’s championships, which the Philippines is bidding to host next year.