AFTER enjoying the massive support of the Filipino people in last year’s Fiba-Asia Men’s Championship campaign, Gilas Pilipinas is counting on 'homecourt advantage' in the Fiba-World Cup in faraway Spain.
Chot Reyes and his players have our OCWs (overseas contract workers) and migrants to thank for that.
Following the results of the tournament draw Monday night (Tuesday early morning Manila time) in Barcelona, national head coach Reyes said he is looking forward to playing in the southern Spanish city of Seville, where he said a big Filipino community is based.
“We like the fact that we will play in Seville because we know that we have quite a big Filipino community in Seville,” said Reyes in an interview with FIBA, the video of which was posted on YouTube.
“We expect a lot of our countrymen to come out apart from the people from the Philippines that will fly over to Spain,” Reyes said.
The national team got massive support from Filipino basketball fans, whom Reyes referred to as the team’s 'sixth man,' when it finished runner-up to Iran in the world basketball qualifier last year in Manila.
David Perez Camarena, a Spanish national based in Malaga who writes about world basketball through a blog named piratasdelbasket.es, also attested to Spin.ph via Twitter the high number of Filipinos based in Seville.
“You'll be like home. There's an important Pinoy community in Seville,” wrote Camarena.
Gilas Pilipinas will open its campaign in the Fiba-World Cup against Croatia on August 30 before facing Greece on August 31. The PBA-backed squad then takes on powerhouse Argentina on September 1 before taking a day-off on September 2.
The Nationals return to action on September 3 against Puerto Rico, then wrap up the preliminaries on September 4 against Senegal.
Reyes said the team is still eyeing a place in the next round by winning at least two games, but clarified the odds remain stacked against Gilas.
“We would love to get into the second round. To do that, we have to win two games for a chance to progress. Being in the Final 16, it’s going to be a huge win not only for the team but the whole nation. If we go to the Top 16, it’s going to be fantastic,” said Reyes.
“It is a tough group ... We are going to relish it and we are going to prepare very, very hard. For a team like the Philippines, there is really no easy group. Every game is going to be hard,” added the Gilas coach.