NATURALIZED center Marcus Douthit said physical conditioning and mental preparation must go hand in hand as Gilas Pilipinas prepares for the Fiba World Cup and the Asian Games scheduled this August and September, respectively.
Gilas is set to leave at 5 a.m. on Thursday for Wuhan, China to join the weeklong Fiba Asia Cup, but Douthit said the biennial tournament is a mere first step in the national team’s grueling month-long schedule before plunging to action on August 30 for the Fiba World Cup.
They Said It!
“We go on the road for two and a half months... it’s (a grueling schedule), definitely something I never experienced ever since I’ve been playing basketball. But I just hope everyone can stay healthy and stay mentally ready." Gilas center Marcus Douthit
“Right now, we’re just trying to be mentally prepared for the grueling road trip because everything is back-to-back,” Douthit told sports scribes during the Max’s sendoff party for Gilas on Tuesday night.
Douthit said Gilas’ Lithuania and New Zealand training camp and exhibition matches last year were nothing compared to this year’s tighter schedule.
“Unlike last year when we went to Lithuania where we come back and had a few days off, then trained a little bit before going back on the road, but now, we go on the road for two and a half months,” said the 34-year-old Providence product.
“It’s (grueling schedule) definitely something I never experienced ever since I’ve been playing basketball. But I just hope everyone can stay healthy and stay mentally ready and stay focused on the task at hand because it’s the first time for all these guys to be away from their family for so long,” he added.
Aside from the China expedition on July 11-19, Gilas will be playing two exhibition games in Manila against NBA stars led by Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin and Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard before leaving for a training camp in Miami, Florida from July 25 to August 7.
New naturalized player Andray Blatche of the Brooklyn Nets is expected to join Gilas in Miami before the national team shifts to a run of nine exhibition matches in Vittoria, Spain beginning against African powerhouse Angola on August 7, the Spanish ACB Select team (August 10), as well as a stint in the France Invitational in Antibes, France.
After Gilas’ series of tuneup matches, the national team goes back to Seville for its opening World Cup game on August 30, followed by matches against Greece on August 31, Argentina on September 1, Puerto Rico on September 3, and Senegal on September 4.
Douthit said the two-and-a-half-month sacrifice is worth it though, knowing that millions of Filipinos, their families included, are cheering for them during their buildup for the world championships and the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea set in the middle of September.
“Our families at home are gonna be rooting for us and pushing for us, and they know it’s something that everyone doesn’t get to do, because this is once in a lifetime,” he said.
The Philippines is returning to the World Cup for the first time in 36 years, thanks to Gilas’ strong silver medal finish in last year’s Fiba-Asia men’s championships held in Manila.