NZ coach says Gilas will be fine in Fiba Asia 'especially once Blatche gets more fit'
Andray Blatche showed better form in the match against Chinese-Taipei. Jerome Ascano

WELLINGTON playing-coach Kevin Braswell has installed Gilas Pilipinas as one of the favorites to win the gold medal in the Fiba Asia Championship that unfolds in China in two weeks.

Braswell, whose Saints squad lost to the Filipino dribblers twice in the last two weeks, also rattled off perennial Asian powerhouses Iran and China as the teams to beat in the continental qualifier for the Rio Olympics next year.

“China, Iran, and I think you, guys (Philippines) will be right there to win it,” Braswell said after his team routed Talk ‘N Text, 101-78, to finish second in the Master Game Face MVP Cup. “It’s just who’s better on that day.”

Gilas’ primary barometer is its rebounding, according to Braswell, whose team has also played Iran in the Jones Cup.

“If they can rebound the ball well, they’ll be fine,” he said. ‘That’s going to be their biggest issue.”

Gilas collared 39 rebounds, two less than what the Saints hauled down in their MVP Cup match that the Filipinos won, 84-81.

Andray Blatche’s fitness is also an issue, according to Braswell.

“I think they’ll be fine especially when Andray gets more fit.”

After all, the Filipinos are all set with their backcourt players.

“They have great guard play,” Braswell said. “I really love their guards.”

“Terrence (Romeo) and (Jayson) Castro really have good chemistry, so with those two, and with the knowledge and experience they have together, I think they can actually play good enough with Andray. And if Jordan (Clarkson) is able to play, I think they can actually shock Iran. I really do believe that."

Braswell obviously has yet to hear news that Clarkson has yet to gain clearance from Fiba, yet he still is confident of Gilas’ chances.

“This team competes and they play hard every possession, so I think they have a good chance at winning the Asian Championship.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos