GILAS Pilipinas' conquest of the 19th Super Kung Sheung Cup championship in Hong Kong is a major step, both for the country's bid to retain the Southeast Asian Games gold medal and the bigger goal of doing well in the Fiba-Asia Men's Basketball Championship.
National coach Chot Reyes stressed this point on Sunday night after Gilas' come-from-behind 81-77 win over Southern California-Fukienese Association capped a five-game sweep of the eight-team tournament in the former British colony.
The HK championship also capped what Reyes described as a "fulfilling" run of two titles in four tournaments since he took over from Serb Rajko Toroman as national coach last year.
Reyes, however, was quick to remind everybody that the Hong Kong title was just part of a long journey for a team whose biggest goal is to regain Asian supremacy in the Fiba-Asia showpiece which the country will be hosting for the first time in four decades in August.
"It's fulfilling, but only so far as (the Hong Kong title) contributes to the big goal - winning the Fiba-Asia (championship)," said Reyes in a message to Spin.ph from Hong Kong.
That the championship was won with a team made up predominantly of players from Gilas' cadet pool bodes well for the country's defense of the SEA Games title in Myanmar, Reyes added.
Tournament MVP Kevin Alas led the batch of collegiate players who suited up for Gilas both in Dubai, where the team placed sixth in another tournament, and Hong Kong - the same players who will most likely be tapped for the Southeast Asian Games team.
"The objective of preparing this team for the SEA Games is achieved," said Reyes, who has also led a Gilas team made up mostly of pros to the Jones Cup title in Taipei and a fourth-place finish in the Fiba-Asia Cup in Tokyo last year.
"In so far as the overall Gilas program is concerned, it is nice to know that we have a core of players who know how to play together in a top-flight international competition," Reyes added.