THE head coach of Kazakhstan national team believes Gilas Pilipinas will be in strong contention for the top three berths at stake in the Fiba-Asia Men’s Championship.
Italian Mateteo Boniciolli said the nationals have what it takes to have a crack at next year’s World Basketball Championship in Spain mainly due to the presence of their fine outside shooters and the support of a great coaching staff under Chot Reyes.
“They are one of favorites for the three medals,” said Boniciolli. “They are a very good team, and a great coaching staff. They look very aggressive, great experience, and fantastic shooters.”
Gilas Pilipinas nailed 11 triples in its tune-up game with Kazakhstan Friday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum, a 92-89 win that saw guard Jeff Chan shooting six triples to finish with 20 points.
Aside from outside shooting, the Kazakhstan coach said Gilas’ athleticism will also be a key factor as the country bids to return to the world stage after 35 years.
“The Philippine players are very good athletes. They are used to international competitions,” he added.
Kazakhstan gave the Philippines a tough challenge in what was only its fourth scrimmage game in its build-up for the Fiba-Asia meet.
“We came here with 45 days of hardwork but only three scrimmages. This is our fourth, and considering that our opponent had 26 free throw attempts compared to 10, there is no big difference (winning margin),” said Boniciolli.
For his part, Reyes thinks Kazakhstan is also one of the strongest teams in the Fiba-Asia tilt, the reason why he avoided being bracketed with it at Group D.
“In my books, talagang one of the strongest teams ang Kazakhstan. We always have a hard time against them. That is why iniwasan natin ‘yan sa grouping,” said Reyes.
Boniciolli thanked Reyes for the compliment and said the same thing about Gilas.
“First of all, I thank him for the appreciation of our team. But I think (we are also one) of the strongest teams. That is why we are here. We are here to compete and respect our opponent. But we are here to win,” he said.
But Boniciolli said the Kazakhs still need to improve on their defense with only days before the competition proper kicks off on August 1 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“We have to improve two or three very important details but even then, we will be an interesting team. I think we can compete for the three spots,” said Boniciolli.