THE last two times Gilas faced Indonesia, the Philippine national team walked away with decisive wins: a 97-70 rout in the Southeast Asian Games last December, and then, two months after, a 100-70 blowout in the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers.
On Friday, June 19, a Gilas team will once again go up against Indonesia, but this time, on a digital basketball court, as the Philippines' E-Gilas squad enters the Fiba Esports Open.
Coach Nielie "Nite" Alparas walked SPIN Life through the esports squad’s grueling practice schedule for the Friday friendly.
Their day begins at 9 a.m., with a team meeting to plan on what they need to work on throughout the day.
“Nag-iisip kami ng bagong plays na pwede namin ma-add sa team,” Nite said. Reviewing film of previous plays is also important in that three-hour meeting. “Para nakikita namin ang mga mali naming pwesto.”
Six-hour scrimmages form the bulk of their practice.
In most 2K matches, a player takes control of an entire NBA team. However, under the Fiba Esports Open’s ProAm 5 versus 5 rules, you won’t be seeing the Raptors, the Cavs, the Warriors, or any NBA team.
Instead, each country will be fielding a team of their own creation.
“Sa ProAm, yung first step, kailangan mong gumawa ng player. Pumili ka ng archetype, ng position, tapos yun, ipapa-99 mo siya,” E-Gilas small forward Custer "Aguila" Galas explained. They’ve been working on their created players in NBA 2K20 since the game was first released, putting them under a grueling grind to lift their ratings up from 60 (the starting level) to required competition-level 99.
Once that’s done, “Pwede na kayong mag-form ng team,” continued Aguila.
Unlike the one-man-team spectacle of a typical NBA 2K game, each E-Gilas member takes control of just one player. Just like a real basketball squad, they have to work together as a team to execute their plays.
In fact, said Aljon “Shintarou” Cruzin, who actually plays basketball himself, knowing how to play in real life translates to a stronger court IQ inside NBA 2K.
“Kasi ako, sa totoong buhay, gusto ko talaga na ako ang point guard,” he said. “Kaya dito sa game, ang archetype ko, ang position ko, point guard din. Parang yung knowledge ba sa totoong buhay tsaka sa 5v5 [NBA 2K], medyo same, pero controller gamit.”
Shintarou added, laughing: “Yung mga hindi ko kayang gawin sa totoong buhay, dito ko na lang ginagawa.”
On a technical level, though, the mechanics of video game basketball are miles away from the real thing. E-Gilas center Philippe “Izzo” Alcaraz IV tried to explain what goes in the mindset of a pro 2K player.
“Dito sa NBA 2K, it's [all about the] shot releases,” Izzo began. “Mine-measure siya by milliseconds.” By his estimation, there are around 300 jump shots to choose from, which, when paired with a different release, means a player has an arsenal of up to 3,000 shots to take while in the paint.
So, for an example, for a shooter, “Mamimili kami ng isang jump shot na kailangan naming ma-practice. Tapos [for that shot] meron kaming range of milliseconds, what we call a ‘green window,’ to make the shot.”
In other words, just to score a basket, a professional grade 2K player has to have, in Izzo's words, almost “robotic timing.”
Even so, there’s huge potential to develop even more pro level esports basketball players in the country. The team believes it’s a developing scene whose time is ripe for an explosion. Their time in the spotlight will only fuel the sport's growth.
Rocky “Rak” Braña, who runs his own 2K streaming channel, admits that while there are many YouTube videos out there where you can pick up skills and techniques, in the end, it all boils down to constant practice.
“Kahit kami, halos pare-pareho ang galaw,” he said. “Pero lumalamang lang siguro kami sa practice.”
And that’s the beauty of esports, says Clark “Clark” Banzon, E-Gilas’ power forward.
“Yung age, weight, height, hindi nag-ma-matter. It's about the IQ, yung mechanics mo sa game, tapos yung stick skills kung tawagin,” he said.
Clark acknowledged that the expectations — and the pressure — on them are high.
But they're not choosing to focus on that. Instead, they're basking in the honor of calling themselves “E-Gilas.” Carrying the country’s flag is already achievement enough.
“Nakakagulat, nakakataba ng puso,” said Rial “Rial” Polog Jr., who plays the team’s shooting guard. “Masaya sa feeling.”
As reserve center/power forward Al “Alt” Timajo put it: “Gagamitin ko yung line ni Pacquiao: 'From nobody to somebody.' Yun ang feeling nun.”