FOR Gilas Pilipinas, the job doesn’t end by merely qualifying for the Fiba-World Cup in Spain.
Suiting up in the biggest basketball stage in the world for the first time in 35 years, the Nationals have been given clear marching orders by no less than Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) president Manny V. Pangilinan when they compete in the August 30 to Sept. 14 quadrennial meet in Spain.
“Mr. Pangilinan told the whole team that he doesn’t want them to be tourists in Spain,” SBP executive director Sonny Barrios disclosed during Tuesday’s first session of the weekly Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum of the year at Shakey’s Malate.
They Said It!
“(SBP president Manny Pangilinan) and I think all of us, will be quite disappointed if we lose all five games (in the elims). The target is to win at least two games and get to the second round." - SBP executive director Sonny Barrios
The high-profile cage team that finished a surprise runner-up to Iran in the Fiba-Asia Men’s Championship in Manila to earn a berth in the tournament formerly known as the World Basketball Championship, is scheduled to play five games in the preliminaries to be held in the cities of Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Gran Canaria, Granada, and Seville.
And Barrios admitted the SBP hierarchy – and the Filipino people in general – is looking for Gilas Pilipinas to win at least two games.
“He (Pangilinan) and I think all of us, will be quite disappointed if we lose all five games (in the elims). The target is to win at least two games and get to the second round.”
“It’s a high target,” Barrios stressed, “but it depends on the grouping that we’re landing. You can only imagine if we are bracketed with the United States. Bitter sweet yun sa mga players, maraming photo ops sa mga NBA stars, pero bugbog-sarado tayo malamang dun.”
The last time the Philippines saw action in the World Cup in 1978 when it hosted the event. In 1986, the Philippines also qualified but wasn’t able to compete because of the Edsa Revolution.
Only the best teams advance to the World Cup but Barrios said Gilas players cannot go to Spain thinking there’s no chance at all.
The United States won the 2010 crown by beating Turkey in Istanbul. In 2006, Spain defeated Greece for the title as the Americans finished third.
“We cannot go there thinking nothing will happen. The pessimists are saying it’s a waste because nothing will happen but that’s not the right attitude,” said Barrios.
Chot Reyes, head coach of Gilas Pilipinas, is flying to Spain for the World Cup draw scheduled Feb. 3. He will be accompanied by team manager Aboy Castro and logistics officer Andrew Teh.
Reyes is “burning the candles,” according to Barrios, and is making sure Gilas Pilipinas fields the best team possible for the World Cup.
The SBP is keeping its fingers crossed the PBA and its teams can find a way to “pro-actively” support the campaign by loaning its best players.
“There are many ways to skin a cat. I hope the PBA can find a solution that will not hurt the league as much. If the PBA can only give us two months (with their players) it may be sufficient,” said Barrios.
“We will play the cards dealt to us. But we want to send the best team we can.”
Barrios said the Philippines already received an invitation from the Jones Cup organizers but the SBP “politely declined” because Reyes has already lined up a training sting in Europe in August.
By the time the Gilas players return from Spain, they will only have a couple of weeks to prepare for the Incheon Asian Games set Sept. 19 to Oct. 4.
“They only have a week to train and say ‘hello and goodbye’ to their families,” said Barrios.