GILAS Pilipinas is planning to send a scouting team to the Stankovic Cup Intercontinental tournament late this month to get an idea on how China will be under its new Greek coach.
The tournament will be held in Lanzhou, China, and will be used by the Asian powerhouse team as part of its build-up for its title-retention bid in the Fiba-Asia Men’s Championship in Manila this August.
This marks the first time the Gilas coaching staff will witness the Chinese team playing under new coach Panagiotis Giannakis, who led Greece to a silver medal finish behind Spain during the 2006 Fiba-World Championship in Saitama, Japan.
The legendary Greek mentor took over China's coaching reins from American Bob Donewald Jr., who steered the team to the Fiba-Asia title in 2011 and called the shots for China in the 2012 London Olympics.
“Kung hindi si coach Chot (Reyes) ang pupunta, he could send someone to scout there (Stancovic Cup), though usually siya mismo ang pumupunta and then may isa siyang sinasama,” Gilas Pilipinas deputy coach Nash Racela told Spin.ph on Wednesday shortly after holding practice with the Far Eastern University Tamaraws.
Racela was part of Reyes’ coaching staff when the Philippines finished in ninth place during the 2007 edition of the Fiba-Asia in Tokushima, Japan.
The entry of the 54-year-old Giannakis as Chinese coach has created big expectations within the East Asian country as the veteran Greek mentor is coming in with impressive credentials.
Giannakis gained tremendous prominence in Europe after leading the Greek national squad to the championship of the 2005 EuroBasket.
A year later, he guided the same team to a second place behind Spain during the Fiba-World Championship in Saitama, Japan, a stint best remembered for the Greeks’ gigantic 101-95 win over a star-studded US basketball team bannered by LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Dwyane Wade during the semifinals.
Racela expects China to shore up its roster with young and big players coming from its youth team to complement a veteran lineup led by former NBA player Yi Jianlian.
“Consistent naman lagi ang China eh, kasama na `yung South Korea and Japan na may ilang mga 6-foot-9 players from the youth na mukhang ma-e-elevate nila sa senior national team,” noted Racela, who served as brother Olsen’s deputy when they led the Philippine Youth under-18 team to a sixth place finish in last year’s Fiba-Asia under-18 championships in Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia.
At present, the Gilas Pilipinas training pool is holding a two-week training camp at the resort town of Palanga, Lithuania as part of the team’s preparation for the Fiba-Asia tournament which the country is hosting from August 1-11.