MANILA, Philippines – With the PBA’s mid-season conference wrapped up, the Philippine basketball schedule now shifts to Gilas Pilipinas' build-up for the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament happening here from July 5 to 10.
The Philippine national men's basketball team began practicing for the Qualifiers last November, meeting once a week during the course of the PBA season. Sessions have been interrupted twice during the Christmas and New Year break stretching to the Philippine Cup playoffs, as well as during the Commissioner's Cup playoffs.
Gilas resumed practice on Wednesday, May 18, kickstarting daily trainings leading up to a training camp abroad before returning home to Manila just in time for the tournament, where the Philippines aims to snatch one of 3 remaining basketball slots for the Rio Olympics in August.
Rappler outlines below where the team will be and what they will be doing to prepare.
For the remaining days in May, Gilas Pilipinas will remain in Manila and pursue either once-a-day or twice-a-day practices, depending on need and availability, according to head coach Tab Baldwin.
Team manager Butch Antonio clarified the May schedule in Manila still needs to be finalized given the PBA Finals only just ended Wednesday night.
Baldwin said he would rather take 3- to 3.5-hour practices with the team every day than have two-a-day trainings that are likely to hassle players.
"Two-a-day means up to 4 hours of traffic for some guys or sitting around the gym for 5 hours waiting for the second training. But we’ll see," he explained after Wednesday's practice. "We may be forced to do some of that, we may want to. But generally speaking, 3 to 3 and a half hours a day will be probably what we’re doing."
Things kick into high gear for Gilas come June as they are set for tune-up games in Manila, then a training camp and a pocket tournament abroad.
The team will leave for Europe on June 10, taking only 14 players with them, which means the now 22-man pool will be whittled down soon. Antonio said there is no specific date yet for when the 14 names will be released.
"It’ll be soon but it can’t be really soon because he (Baldwin) has to take a look at the players still," he said.
Both Matt Ganuelas-Rosser and Greg Slaughter are no longer options for the final lineup due to ankle injuries and surgeries. However, Ray Parks just joined practice on Wednesday following his NBA D-League stint.
Meanwhile, naturalized import Andray Blatche is expected to arrive next week or at the latest May 27, according to Antonio, as he still has to "attend to some private family matters that are very important."
They expect Blatche to be in game shape, saying the handlers have assured them the big man has been working out since around March or April.
These are the key dates for Gilas Pilipinas in June.
June 7: Gilas plays a closed door game against Iran in Manila.
June 8: Gilas plays Iran again. This time it will be open with the Smart Araneta Coliseum as the tentative venue for now.
June 10: The team departs for Greece.
June 11 to 19: The nationals will go through a training camp in the mountains, according to Baldwin. They will go straight to a training center in a town called Karpenisi, where the Greek national team usually trains.
June 20: The team departs Greece and heads to Istanbul, Turkey.
June 21: Gilas plays the Turkish national team.
June 23: They leave Turkey and fly to Bologna, Italy.
June 25: Gilas Pilipinas will participate in a pocket tournament with Italy, Canada, and China, Baldwin said. The team takes on Italy on this day.
June 26: Gilas then plays either Canada or China. Per Baldwin, the losing teams will play each other, same with the winning teams.
June 27: Gilas flies back home to Manila and is expected to arrive on the 28th.
July 1: The nationals face Turkey in Manila, 4 days before the tournament opens.