THERE'S not a lot you can do in five practices, especially with your players focused on their mother teams' respective playoff runs, but there's one positive Chot Reyes sees in his Gilas Pilipinas pool.
The team is starting to bond.
“Five practices … di kami nakakalaro ng depensa eh. Five-on-zero (drills) and shooting lang, kasi ayaw naming pagurin ang mga players,” said Reyes of his band of mostly PBA stars and their once-a-week practices.
“Pero at least, we’re together. (We're) keeping the camaraderie alive and we’re getting them to be more comfortable with what we want to do," he added. "But in terms of kung umuusad kami, wala masyado."
But the pace of Gilas' preparations for the Fiba-Asia championships should step up after the Commissioner's Cup, when the league takes a break and the 15 PBA stars will commit fully to join naturalized player Marcus Douthit and amateur star Greg Slaughter in rigorous practices.
Gilas is set to leave for Lithuania for a two-week camp and competition from June 2-16 and if plans don’t miscarry, Reyes intends to hold a week-long invitational at the end of June featuring some of Middle Eastern squads.
Gilas' first acid test, though, comes in midway July when the national squad defends its Jones Cup title in Taipei.
For now, Gilas is making do with baby steps as it prepares for a shot at Asia's most prestigious tournament, which the country last won with an all-Filipino roster in 1973. Another national team coached by Ron Jacobs and reinforced by naturalized players Jeff Moore and Dennis Still also won the title in 1986.
“Kahit once-a-week, malaking bagay pa rin yun. Medyo nagiging fluid na yung offense. Yung familiarity na lang playing with one another kasi di pa kami nag five-on-five,” point guard LA Tenorio told Spin.ph.
Tenorio said playing tune-up games won’t be possible at this point.
“Nakakapagod din kung mag-five-on-five kaya sa practice, we just take quality 45 minutes to one hour, then nag-basic shooting na lang muna kami. Alam din kasi ni coach Chot na malapit na ang playoffs at maraming teams ang naghahabol,” said the Ginebra guard.