UNLIKE the modest goal it sets for the Fiba-World Cup in Spain, Gilas Pilipinas is going all out for the top prize in the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.
The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) has directed coach Chot Reyes and the entire national team to win no less than the gold medal in the Asiad set from September 19 to October 4.
The instruction came from SBP president Manny V. Pangilinan himself, according to executive director Sonny Barrios.
“Sa Asian Games, Mr. Pangilinan’s mandate is to win the gold. Ganun kabigat `yung mandate na binigay kay coach Chot (Reyes) at sa team,” Barrios said.
The directive came in light of a similar marching orders Pangilinan gave to the team regarding its world championship campaign, in which he said he doesn’t want the Nationals to be `mere tourists’ in Spain.
“The target is to win at least two games and get to the second round,” disclosed Barrios during the weekly Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum.
To qualify in the world championship, Gilas Pilipinas finished runner-up behind champion Iran during the Fiba-Asia Men’s Championship here in Manila. The Nationals clinched a berth in the gold medal match by toppling nemesis South Korea in a thrilling semifinal encounter, 85-79.
For sure, the Sokors are out to get their vengeance against Gilas in Incheon, but Reyes believes his team is up to the task of ending the country’s 52-year gold medal drought in the Asiad.
“Of course. If we’re not going for the gold in the Asian competition, why even bother participating,” he said in a text message to Spin.ph.
The country last won the Asiad gold in 1962 yet behind a team backstopped by the great Carlos Loyzaga, Kurt Bachman, and the late Narciso Bernardo and Rhoel Nadurata, among others.
The closest a Philippine team challenged for the Asiad gold was in 1990 when it sent its first ever all-pro team to the meet coached by Robert Jaworski Sr. Unfortunately, the Nationals lost to the host Chinese in the championship match, 90-74.
Barrios said the preparation to be made by Gilas Pilipinas for the Fiba-World Cup will also be in conjunction with its build up for the Asiad.
“Mag-te-train tayo mabuti sa world (championship), dahil `yung training natin sa world tuhog na `yun sa Asian Games,” said the SBP executive.
The Fiba-World Cup is set August 30 to Sept. 14.
“As soon as tapos na yung laro natin sa Spain hindi tayo agad uuwi. Tutuloy na yung training natin sa Icheon baka umuwi lang ang team Manila para mag-hello and goodbye sa pamilya nila,” said Barrios.
“They only have maybe a week to train more in preparation for Incheon.”