FIBA Asia Cup is 'good training' for Gilas, says MVP
MANILA, Philippines – Things are slowly falling into place for Gilas Pilipinas.
With the FIBA World Cup in Spain about 4 months away, the build-up is in full swing for the national men's basketball team.
One crucial part of that build-up is the team participating in this year's FIBA Asia Cup.
After the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) initially adjusted its schedule to finish by mid-July and give the PBA player-laden Gilas at least a full month and a half to prepare, the country's premier basketball league is bending over some more by shortening its season-ending Governors' Cup further to finish by July 9 instead.
"That will allow Gilas to leave on July 10 for the FIBA tournament in China, which is a good tournament for Gilas to join,” said PBA Chairman Ramon Seguismundo.
The FIBA Asia Cup is a tournament held every two years and participated in by 10 Asian national teams. This year, it will be played in Wuhan, China from July 11-19.
The adjustment to the Governors' Cup schedule was made specifically so Gilas can make it to this tourney instead of participating as an 11th team in the PBA's last conference this season.
Manny V. Pangilinan, president of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, believes the FIBA Asia Cup is a much better option for the Spain-bound Gilas squad.
"We're very grateful for any particular space they (PBA) can give the national team," Pangilinan said.
"It's a good training for them because there will be some national teams, as I understand it, playing there. So it will be a good tune-up."
Seguismundo echoed Pangilinan's sentiment.
"The tournament in China will have national teams, international caliber and would have taller, world class caliber teams and players. Very similar to the one in Spain."
Seguismundo explained the PBA won't necessarily change the competition format to shorten the Governors' Cup. Instead, they are going to increase the number of games and play dates per week to speed up the schedule.
According to Commissioner Chito Salud during the 2014 PBA All-Star press conference, they are planning to have 5 game days a week for a total of 10 games.
Salud: The board has decided that it will support the July 9 deadline. That means we'll be playing 10 games a week, 5 days a week next conf— Jane Bracher (@janebracher) April 3, 2014
Asked if triple headers will be part of the schedule, Seguismundo said he sensed the board "wasn't too keen about that."
He added, "We found this option to be doable and it would serve the purposes of Gilas even better."
Gilas head coach Chot Reyes openly expressed interest in joining the FIBA Asia Cup during the team's first official practice early last March. And it comes with good reason.
The participants in the tournament so far will include hosts China and FIBA Asia Champions Iran. The Philippines faced Iran during the Finals of the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship in Manila but were defeated by the powerhouse team to win the title.
Iran will also be heading to the World Cup and will be playing in Group Group A. While the Philippines is in Group B and will be competing against Argentina, Greece, Senegal, Croatia, and Puerto Rico.
The development was also welcome to Gilas hero Marc Pingris, who noted it is much better for Gilas to compete against relatively unknown international opponents compared to PBA teams they have long been familiar with.
"Mas okay yung competition doon kasi ilang years na rin kami dito (PBA). Siguro i-try mo yung sarili mo kung hanggang saan yung kaya ng level ng paglalaro mo," explained the 6-foot-5 forward. "Kasi dito kilala mo na lahat ng player dito eh. Kilala mo na kung ano yung laro nila. Doon, hindi. So doon ka gagaling. Kung mas mabilis doon, sasabihin ni coach kailangan bilisan mo din so bibilis ka."
(Competition should be much better there because we've been playing here in the PBA for many years. You should test yourself as to how far you can go with your level of play. We already know all the players here. We know how they play. There, we do not. So we will get better there. If players are faster there, coach will tell you to be faster and you will be.)
The stark difference physically between local and international players, Pingris says, will also help bolster Gilas' level of talent as they increase their exposure to bigger and faster athletes.
"Advantage lang doon dahil mas malalaki, mas mabibilis yung mga makakalaban mo. Yung sentro natin baka wingman lang nila or point guard lang nila. Katulad ng mga boxingero, kailangan ang maka-sparring nila mas malalakas sa kanila or mas malalaki. Ganoon din yung sa basketball."
(The advantage there is we will be competing against bigger, faster opponents. Our centers could be their wingman or point guard. Like with boxers, they need to spar against tougher or bigger boxers. It's the same with basketball.)
The FIBA World Cup will be played in Spain from August 30 to September 4. The Philippines will be playing the preliminary round in the city of Sevilla owing to their grouping. - Rappler.com