Gilas vets returning to provide experience

Olmin Leyba (The Philippine Star) – December 19, 2020 – 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Gilas Pilipinas is ready to welcome stalwarts from the PBA back to its fold for the upcoming FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers Window 3 matches against nemesis South Korea and Indonesia in February in Clark.

An all-cadet roster carried the fight for Gilas in the previous window in Bahrain and romped off with a pair of routs over Thailand.  This augurs well for the promising youngsters but coaches recognize the need for experience for the Feb. 18-22 matches versus tougher assignments.

The Pinoy dribblers are set to face the Koreans twice in the Group A hostilities, seeking to snap a five-game losing streak since 2014. In between, they lock horns with the Indonesians, a squad mentored by Rajko Toroman and bannered by former PBA import Lester Prosper.

The Continental showpiece will be hosted by Indonesia from Aug. 16-28 next year, according to FIBA’s Regional Office Asia. As a result, the Indonesians got a direct spot in the 16-team field and would just use their remaining matches in the qualifiers as part of their buildup.

“Expect a content including PBA players and including young players,” Gilas program director Tab Baldwin said during the recent launch of the global partnership between Smart Communications and FIBA. “At this point, it’s too early to be able to delineate how many of each.”

Baldwin explained that the program is taking down two paths as it builds up for the 2023 World Cup. Primary is to develop younger players into “quality international players.” At the same time, there’s still the need to mix them with more seasoned pros.

“There’s always going to be room for and need for experience in our team if we expect to compete at the elite level and in the upcoming window, because the PBA is on a break, we should be able to access some PBA players,” he said.

Pros last suited up for Gilas in its 100-70 demolition of Indonesia in the first window in Jakarta last February.  Seven PBA mainstays Kiefer Ravena, Abu Tratter, Poy Erram, RR Pogoy, Troy Rosario, Justin Chua and CJ Perez beefed up the quintet in that road outing.

They plan to start the team’s bubble training in early January. “We’re very excited to host here in the Philippines, and we’re looking forward to getting back together with our players in January and perhaps get in a little bit more time together to prepare and flesh out our system a bit more,” said Baldwin.

“We recognize that with the likes of Korea and Indonesia, the competition should be tougher but we believe we’ll put together a fine roster and be ready for this challenge,” he added.





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