JIMMY Alapag is aware time is running out on Gilas Pilipinas as it yet to really play together competitively with only 39 days left to the Fiba-Asia Men’s Championship.
While the nationals are coming off a two-week training camp in Lithuania that saw them play a total of seven tune-up games, including two against the Lithuania under-20 team, the 35-year-old veteran point guard said the Baltic City exposure is still not enough to get them ready for the August 1-11 tournament in Manila.
“We made a lot of big steps forward in Lithuania, but again, we need to maximize the time. Of course, those seven games were a big help for us to adjust to the Fiba style of play and physicality because the (international) game is played differently,” Alapag shared to Spin.ph Friday night as Gilas resumed practice at the Ynares Center after arriving from Lithuania earlier in the week.
Alapag also lauded the Lithuanian trip, stressing it allowed the 13-man national training pool to bond together and put their focus on the Fiba-Asia mission, where a top three finish guarantees a berth in the Fiba-World Championship next year in Spain.
“Honestly, the Lithuanian camp was great. It gave us an opportunity to be together as a team. It also gave us an environment to talk to each other and build relationships because for most part of the year, we normally go against each other in the PBA,” explained the one-time league Most Valuable Player.
Still, the stint is not enough.
Alapag said the nationals still need to get as many more competitive games as possible in the coming days leading to the Fiba-Asia meet.
“I believe coach Chot (Reyes) is trying to get us to play as many competitive games as possible before the tournament (Fiba-Asia showpiece). That would really, really be a big help because we need to get better and improve,” added the Talk `N Text star.
Options are now being considered by the Gilas coaching staff about upcoming tune-up games, including one against Kazakhstan, which may be scheduled late in July either at the Mall of Asia Arena or at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum as the Kazakhs are planning to come to the country earlier for the Fiba-Asia event.
“Kazakhs getting ready in Italy, Slovenia. Iba ang level ngayon kaysa nung 09/11 preparations!” Reyes said in his Twitter account @coachot on Saturday.
Gilas Pilipinas and Kazakhstan are likely bound to clash in the quarterfinal round of the biennial meet.