GILAS Pilipinas will prime itself up for the Fiba-Asia Men’s Basketball Championship by playing the Yao Ming-owned Shanghai Sharks team in one of two exhibition matches the Chinese professional team is set to play in the country this May.
Philippine Sports Commission chairman Ritchie Garcia on Wednesday confirmed the arrival of the former Chinese Basketball Association champions after a meeting with PBA commissioner Chito Salud and Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) executive director Sonny Barrios.
Garcia said the Sharks will face either a PBA All-Star selection or a PBA team on May 6, before taking on the national team of coach Chot Reyes on May 8.
Yao, the retired Houston Rockets center and owner of the Sharks, will be coming over to witness the event that forms part of the sports bilateral relationship between China and the Philippines.
The exhibition match also forms part of the national team’s training for the Asian qualifying event of next year’s World Basketball Championship which will be held in Manila in August.
Garcia said they are looking at either the Mall of Asia Arena or the Smart-Araneta Coliseum to host the two games.
In between the exhibition matches, the Sharks will host a basketball clinic on May 7.
Aside from Yao, former Washington Wizards star Gilbert Arenas could also make the trip if the Sharks decides to bring along the same team currently playing in the CBA.
“We are now trying to work with accommodations, transportation, and other logistics,” Garcia said.
The PSC chairman said the exhibition games will be played in between the PBA All-Star Week in Digos from May 1 to 6 and the opening of the PBA Governors’ Cup on May 10.
“Ang suggestion ni Commissioner Salud is to bring in the team on the morning of May 6 and play the game in the evening. Then, the second game will be played on the 8th,” said Garcia.
Yao was Shanghai Sharks’ top star before he was selected no. 1 overall pick by the Rockets during the 2002 NBA draft. He bought the ownership of the team when the franchise was on the verge of bankruptcy.