LA Tenorio said Gilas Pilipinas is hoping for the best but is also bracing for the worst when it begins its quest for the gold medal in the 2014 Asian Games on September 23 in Incheon, South Korea.
While Gilas never lacked crowd support during its impressive run in the Fiba World Cup, Tenorio doesn’t expect anything like it in the Asiad where they are expected to play before a hostile Korean home crowd.
That the Philippines beat the South Koreans in the semis of last year’s Fiba-Asia men’s championship, 86-79, could also be an added motivation for the home crowd to jeer the opposition, Tenorio added.
“Di rin natin alam, kasi kahit saang sulok ng mundo, may Pilipino talaga," said Tenorio, who had seen thousands of Filipino fans cheer for Gilas during its buildup for the World Cup and its campaign in Seville, Spain.
"Pero majority (in the Asian Games) mga Koreans, eh malamang babawi yan sa atin, kasi nakita nila how we beat them dito sa home natin last year,” Tenorio said.
Playing before a partisan crowd, Tenorio stressed the importance of of being mentally tough.
“We really have to be ready. But the good thing is, aside from Seville (Spain), marami kaming napuntahang lugar na wala kami masyadong fans,” said Tenorio, referring to Gilas’ month-long training and series of tune-up matches Miami, Florida, France, and various cities in Spain, leading to the Fiba World Cup.
Gilas is in a different bracket as Korea in the group stage, but should the two teams meet in the playoffs, Tenorio stressed the importance of limiting Gilas’ turnovers, considering the Koreans are capable of pouncing on an opponent’s every miscue.
“I think we have to set our minds (on the Asian Games). We can’t commit a mistake every game talaga, kasi magbu-boost sa confidence 'yan ng Koreans. Pero if ever makalaban namin sila, there’s no such thing as perfect basketball, but we have to play close to that (level) against Korea,” added the Ginebra sentinel.
Gilas Pilipinas remains a strong contender for the Asiad gold medal despite the Incheon Asian Games Organizing Committee’s (Iagoc) decision to bar naturalized center Andray Blatche from playing after failing to comply with the three-year residency requirement for all naturalized players.
Instead, the Iagoc has allowed Gilas to replace Blatche with longtime naturalized player Marcus Douthit as the Philippines tries to end its 52-year-old gold medal drought in the quadrennial meet.
Gilas resumes its practice for the Asiad on Saturday night at the Meralco gym.