MANILA, Philippines – Gilas Pilipinas’ present 20-man pool may be touted as the greatest assembled Philippine squad in recent memory but that remains to be proven on the hardcourt.
That’s how head coach Yeng Guiao simply put things to perspective as he quickly downplayed the “greatest” tag given to the current edition of Team Pilipinas.
“Nakakanerbiyos tawaging greatest Philippine team,” Guiao said with a hearty laugh as the Nationals began Day 1 of their buildup for the fifth window of the FIBA World Cup qualifiers on Monday, November 12.
(It makes me nervous when we are called the greatest Philippine team.)
“Hindi naman siguro (I don’t think so). I think that will only be proven with the accomplishment that you’re able to achieve.”
Guiao’s sentiments hold true, especially since the Philippines has yet to secure its spot in the World Cup.
Gilas, which has piled up a 5-3 record after the 4 previous windows, currently sits at 3rd place in Group F. Only the Top 3 teams from Group E and F will be assured of a World Cup berth.
However, that didn’t prevent Filipino basketball fans and pundits to shower praise to Team Pilipinas due its abundance of talents.
PBA giants June Mar Fajardo and Greg Slaughter could team up for the first time in the Philippine team while 7-foot-1 prodigy Kai Sotto, who is just 16 years old, could debut for the senior squad.
Former national team veterans LA Tenorio and Arwind Santos have been added to the fold while Jayson Castro and Troy Rosario rejoin the Philippine squad after serving their FIBA suspensions.
Of course, there are Paul Lee, Alex Cabagnot, Matthew Wright, Marcio Lassiter, Scottie Thompson, Gabe Norwood, Japeth Aguilar, Beau Belga, Poy Erram, Ian Sangalang and Gilas cadet Ricci Rivero.
Christian Standhardinger and Stanley Pringle, meanwhile, vie for the team’s naturalized player spot.
“On paper, malakas siya pero tignan natin kung ano ‘yung magiging resulta. It puts a little bit more pressure on us but ganoon talaga,” Guiao added.
(On paper, the team really is strong but that remains to be seen depending on the results. It puts a little bit more pressure on us but that’s what it is.)
Setting the immense pressure aside, the fiery mentor admitted he is just a normal basketball fan who has only dreamed of seeing the formation of the best Philippine team ever.
“I’m also a basketball fan. If you separate it (being a coach from a fan), parang ito ‘yung matagal mo nang pinapangarap, matagal mo nang ini-imagine, ngayon naging totoo. So I’ll enjoy that moment,” Guiao said.
(I’m also a basketball fan. If you separate being a coach from a fan, this is like what you’ve been dreaming and imagining for a long time and now, it has become a reality. So I’ll enjoy that moment.)
“And at the same time, I have a responsibility as head coach to make the most use out of it, mapaganda natin ‘yung samahan na ‘yun.”
(And at the same time, I have a responsibility as head coach to make the most use out of it and help tighten the bond.)
Gilas’ mettle will be tested as it hosts Kazakhstan and Iran on November 30 and December 3, respectively, at the Mall of Asia Arena. – Rappler.com