GILAS Pilipinas aims for a better finish this time as it kicks off its campaign in the 19th Super Kung Sheung Cup International Basketball Invitational Championship in Hong Kong on Tuesday.
The Nationals, comprised mainly of cadet players from the national pool, arrived in the former British Colony on Monday and will plunge into action less than 24 hours later against Indonesia.
The team of coach Chot Reyes joins Indonesia in Group B along with the host country and Malaysia.
With the exception of PBA players KG Canaleta, Jay R Reyes, and Ronjay Buenafe, Gilas practically parades the same roster that finished sixth place in the 24th Dubai International basketball tournament last week.
Gary David is the lone pro player reinforcing the team built around young guns Greg Slaughter, Kevin Alas, RR Garcia, and Garvo Lanete.
“Just like in any international tournament, our aim is to always win the title,” said Gilas team manager Butch Antonio shortly before the team left for Hong Kong.
Also with the team are Jake Pascual, Ronald Pascual, and Filipino-Americans Matthew Rosser, Isaac Holstein, Justin Melton, and naturalized player Marcus Douthit.
David, Lanete, Douthit, and Rosser were with the Gilas Pilipinas team that won the 34th William Jones Cup basketball championship last year.
“I think he’s (David) OK now. Otherwise, hindi naman siguro siya papayagan na maglaro sa team kung may injury pa siya,” said Antonio of the streak-shooting David.
After Indonesia, the Nationals play Hong Kong next (Wednesday), followed by Malaysia (Thursday) at the end of their preliminary campaign.
Group A is composed of Thailand, the Hong Kong Xinlibao Bulls, Changsa Park, and defending champion Southern California Fukienese Association.
Southern California was the same team an all-star selection from the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. (Cesafi) led by a young June Mar Fajardo, had beaten during the 2008 semifinals of the same tournament. The PH squad however, lost to Hong Kong in the finals.
Antonio said the top two teams in each group play against each other in the crossover semifinals on Saturday, with the finals set on Sunday.