THE Smart Gilas-Pilipinas 2.0 team held a last-minute practice Wednesday morning before departing for Tokyo, Japan later in the afternoon for its Fiba Asia Cup campaign.
Except for big man Sonny Thoss, the entire Nationals trained from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. at the Treston gym to give them enough time to rest once they arrive at the Japanese capital later in the night.
Thoss had to beg off from practice as he suited up for Alaska’s pre-season game against Barako Bull also Wednesday morning, which the Energy won, 90-77. The 6-foot-7 center will depart for Japan on Thursday.
“We scheduled practice on the day of departure because we’ll be arriving in Japan by 10 p.m. na. So instead of having shoot-around pa once we arrived, diretsong pahinga na lang,” said team manager Butch Antonio.
Similar to their recent championship stint in the 34th William Jones Cup basketball tournament, coach Chot Reyes is not expecting much in their campaign in the Sept. 14-22 tournament sanctioned by the International Basketball Federation.
“Aasahan uli namin ang inyong dasal at suporta. We’re playing China on Friday, and who knows,” said Reyes, recipient of the Presidential Award from the PBA Press Corps for being the first truly Filipino coach to steer a Philippine team to the Jones Cup championship.
“We have very little expectations in the Jones Cup. So we’ll see what happens in the Fiba Asia Cup.”
Making up the team are L.A. Tenorio, Gary David, Larry Fonacier, Ranidel de Ocampo, Jeff Chan, Gabe Norwood, Enrico Villanueva, Jay-R Reyes, Thoss, Jared Dillinger, Fil-Am guard Matt Rosser, and naturalized player Marcus Douthit.
The Philippines is bracketed with China in Group A of the meet formerly known as the Stankovic Cup, together with Lebanon, Uzbekistan, and Macau. Group B is comprised of Iran, Chinese-Taipei, Japan, Qatar, and India.
After China, the Nationals take on Lebanon on Saturday, Uzbekistan (Sunday), and Macau (Monday).
The top 4 teams in each group will advance to the knockout, quarterfinal stage.
The original Smart Gilas-Pilipinas of Rajko Toroman finished fourth in the last staging of the tournament two years ago.