Reyes, Gilas brace for tough FIBA Asia opener: ‘We have to beat China’

Alyssa Rola
Reyes, Gilas brace for tough FIBA Asia opener: ‘We have to beat China’
'Regardless of all of our problems, no one is going to outfight us,' says coach Chot Reyes

MANILA, Philippines – Fresh from a William Jones Cup stint in Taiwan, head coach Chot Reyes and the rest of Gilas Pilipinas addressed the media in a press conference on Saturday, July 29 to ponder their recent international experience before focusing on next month’s FIBA Asia Cup and the 2017 Southeast Asian Games. 

The national team came a spot shy of a podium finish, ending up in 4th place behind South Korea, Lithuania, and eventual champions Canada.

Although they failed to defend the crown or earn a podium finish, Reyes was vocal of his pride for the fight shown by Gilas Pilipinas, which he termed as a ‘program of unsung heroes.’

“Regardless of all of our problems, no one is going to outfight us,” said Reyes during the presser Saturday at the Marco Polo Hotel in Ortigas. “We might get into fights, we might get into bad situations but we’re not gonna be outfought.”

“Winning is nice, getting a medal is nice, but hopefully you see the Gilas story – the strive, the story of every Filipino. Magkahirapan man, magkaproblema man (Through hardships and problems), we’re just going to fight like crazy.”

Though their FIBA Asia group stage competitors are still far from his mind’s focus, Reyes says that the Philippine squad’s biggest challenge heading into the biennial meet is to “find a way to beat China.”

Gilas will be  locked in Group B alongside Iraq, China, and Qatar at the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup, which takes place in Beirut, Lebanon from August 8 to 20.

“The biggest problem in FIBA Asia is that we have to beat China. We have to top our group. If we do not top our group, even if we go all the way to the quarterfinals, chances are we’re going to play either New Zealand or Australia in the quarters,” the team’s mentor shared. 

“Hopefully, we find a way to beat China. But the number one priority for me now [is] to get the team together. Basta mabuo team ko, ‘yun muna iniisip ko (as long as I keep my team intact, that’s all I’m thinking about right now).” 

The team and coaching staff will likewise buckle up for whatever surprise China has in store as it may not be the same team the Philippines lost to in the 2015 FIBA Asia final.

“Is it the same team? Mga 50/50 siguro. Because China built two separate teams (China Red and China Blue),” added Reyes. “They played different lineups, different combinations. Those teams have different coaches, running different systems.”

Veterans Jayson Castro, June Mar Fajardo, and Japeth Aguilar will lead the Andray Blatche-less Gilas this year together with returning Gabe Norwood, Calvin Abueva, Terrence Romeo, and Raymond Almazan. 

Cadets Matthew Wright, RR Pogoy, and Jio Jalalon will also provide the youth and firepower to the veteran Philippine squad. 

Fil-German Christian Standhardinger and Carl Bryan Cruz will meanwhile log in double duties for Gilas as they are both included in the FIBA and SEA Games rosters. 

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