GILAS Pilipinas as the country’s special emissary to Taiwan through basketball?
If it can be of help, why not, according to veteran national team point guard Jimmy Alapag.
Alapag believes that by seeing action in the 35th William Jones Cup cage meet where it is the defending champion, Gilas Pilipinas could serve as bridge to ease the brewing tension between the host country and the Philippines following the death of a Taiwanese fisherman two weeks ago in disputed waters.
The strained relationship between the two countries arising from the controversy put in doubt the national team’s stint in the annual basketball meet being held in honor of the former FIBA secretary-general.
“We’re hoping we could still play in the Jones Cup and become some sort of a bridge and promote goodwill between the two countries. It’s a great feeling to play for our Filipino fans there (Jones Cup),” Alapag told Spin.ph.
Alapag, part of the national training pool, said the Jones Cup could serve as the team’s final test just before Gilas Pilipinas embarks on an ambitious bid to finish at least in the top three of the Fiba-Asia Men’s Basketball Championship set in Manila this August.
A top three finish in the biennial cagefest guarantees the country a slot in next year’s Fiba-World Championship in Spain.
“The game is important from our standpoint because we’re getting into our final test. That could also be a barometer on who’s playing and who’s not,” Alapag added, referring to the opportunity to get an idea on how prepared other Asian squads are for the Fiba-Asia showpiece.
Alapag said the Jones Cup could be a perfect opportunity to see the strengths and weaknesses of Asia powerhouse teams such as China, Iran, South Korea, Jordan, Qatar, and even Japan.
The 35-year-old Alapag earlier said the Fiba-Asia meet would be his last Gilas tour of duty should he make the final cut of the national team.
The one-time PBA MVP played for the national squad in the 2007 Jones Cup where the Philippines placed third behind tournament champion Jordan and runner-up Lebanon.