INCHEON, South Korea — Gilas Pilipinas was already focused on Iran in their second practice session here before their much-anticipated debut in the 17th Asian Games.
Not that they are taking their first opponent India lightly, but the Filipinos only learned who their opponent would be in the 5:50 p.m. local time (4:50 p.m. Manila time) game just 10 minutes before wrapping up practice at the dimly lit Songdo High School gym.
India sealed the top seeding in Group B after beating Kazakhstan, 80-61, for the right to join the Philippines and Iran in Group B. The much-improved Indian side now take on Gilas in the second phase of the eliminations.
“We didn’t know who we are playing,” said Reyes to a handful of reporters after practice. “So the only team that we know is Iran.”
It turned out, the preparation against the Hamed Haddadi-led Iran will come in handy for the game against an India team that boasts of three big men led by Singh Amritpal and beat China in the Fiba-Asia Cup.
Reyes said India and Iran are more or less similar, being both heavily reliant on their big men unlike Kazakhstan which leans more on its wingmen.
“The preparation (if Kazakhstan won) is very different because Kazakhstan has wingmen who can post up,” said Reyes.
Gilas takes on Iran at 2 p.m. (1 p.m. Manila time) on Thursday at the faraway Hwaseong Sports Complex outside Incheon. A win over India will assure the Filipinos of a slot in the quarterfinal round regardless of the result of their game against Iran.
Following its impressive campaign in the Fiba World Cup, Reyes is aware that Filipino fans expect more from Gilas in the Asian Games.
“Sabi nga namin, maka-isa lang tayo sa World Cup, masaya na tayo. Here, it’s very different, of course. Everyone is expecting us to win the gold. It’s still pressure but it’s a different kind of pressure nonetheless.
“Having said that, there is no bigger pressure than the pressure we put on. Sanay na kami diyan. From Day One, it’s a pressure-laden situation,” Reyes said.
Despite India's size, Reyes is counting on Gilas to dominate the rebound battle.
“The most important thing with India is that we are able to rebound. They are a very tall team. They’ve got a couple of seven-footers who can really play. They are very athletic, they run the floor, and they have another back-up who is a seven-footer. That’s a very big team. We have to break their zone,” said Reyes.
Reyes is also keeping an eye on Singh Joginder, who scored a team-high 25 points in the India win over Kazakhstan.
“That’s a big part of their offense,” Reyes said.