Gilas Pilipinas to play in MVP Cup before FIBA Asia

MANILA, Philippines — The national men's basketball team Gilas Pilipinas will compete in one final pocket tournament at home right before they depart for the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship in China this September. 

The Philippines and 4 other nations will play in the MVP Cup to be held from September 11 to 13 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, according to former Gilas head coach Chot Reyes who is now Head of Sports5 and Digital5.

"This will be the only time that the country can watch Gilas live so we wanted to make sure that we're able to organize something that will afford the Filipinos a chance to watch their national team play," Reyes said Tuesday, July 7. "That's gonna be Gilas' final tune-up before they leave for FIBA Asia."

Lebanon and current Gilas coach Tab Baldwin's former team New Zealand have already confirmed their participation. Reyes said they are waiting for one more Asian country to confirm and they hope it’s either China or South Korea.

Lebanon, which is slotted in Group D in the FIBA Asia tourney, will be sending its national team, while New Zealand will send an all-star line-up.

The competition will be single round robin as the team with the best record wins the championship plus a $25,000* pot, which is over Php 1.1 million.

. @coachot adds that the goal for the MVP cup is to make it an annual event http://t.co/T083qglqH1 pic.twitter.com/2MFpcu5L9U — Jane Bracher (@janebracher) July 7, 2015

A similar pocket tournament, the MVP Cup Invitational Championships, was held in 2010 where the national team emerged as champion against Jordan and the Dongguan New Century of the Chinese Basketball Association. The tourney was conducted in preparation for the Guangzhou Asian Games.

The ultimate goal for this MVP Cup is to transition into an annual affair and establish it among the ranks of regular competitions such as the Stanković Cup and the William Jones Cup. 

“I think it's about time that the country regularly hosts a top-notch Asian tournament,” Reyes said. "And that's only going to improve our standing in Asia and in the world in FIBA’s eyes.” 

“After hosting the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship, I think local basketball fans are hungry to watch top-notch international teams compete here,” he added. 

Gilas, which wound up with the silver in 2013, is eyeing nothing less than the gold medal and the accompanying outright 2016 Olympics berth at this year’s FIBA Asia tournament which is from September 23 to August 3.

Gilas is expected to conduct training camps abroad after this PBA season and currently in consideration is the country’s participation in the William Jones Cup, which is slated from August 29 to September 6 in Taiwan. The MVP Cup will be the last stop for Gilas ahead of the FIBA Asia. 

Baldwin has yet to name the 26-man pool from which he will select his final roster and there is no definite date for the arrival of naturalized center Andray Blatche. But Samahang Basketol ng Pilipinas Executive Director Sonny Barrios confirmed that August 1 is the projected start of Gilas training. — Rappler.com

*USD 1 = PHP 45.23 as of posting time