CAN the young guns prove their worth?
Gilas Pilipinas coach Jong Uichico has expressed confidence that the all-amateur Philippine five can get the job done in the November window of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers.
“Confident naman kami. Confident naman ang players dahil alam natin na lalaban lahat iyan. Alam nilang kaya nilang manalo,” Uichico said on Radyo5 92.3 News FM’s Power and Play program hosted by former PBA Commissioner Noli Eala last Saturday.
“The progress in practice is very positive so tumataas ang kumpiyansa namin at kumpiyansa nila,” he added.
The 15-man nationals left yesterday for the qualifiers to be played in a bubble in Manama, Bahrain.
Ateneo center Angelo Kouame of Ivory Coast, a naturalized player candidate, was cut from the 16-man national team training pool.
Big man Isaac Go, guard Rey Suerte, and twins Matt and Mike Nieto, all Gilas special draftees last year, and wingman Jaydee Tungcab banner the team.
Joining them are University of the Philippines standouts Kobe Paras, Juan and Javi Gomez de Liano, Dave Ildefonso, Will Navarro, and Dwight Ramos of the Blue Eagles, La Salle big man Justine Baltazar, reigning NCAA MVP Calvin Oftana and San Beda University teammate Kemark Cariño.
Despite nursing a fractured right shoulder injury, wingman Allyn Bulanadi still joined the flight to Bahrain.
The Filipino dribblers will only clash with Thailand on Nov. 27 and on Nov. 30, according to an adjusted schedule released by FIBA on its website after South Korea pulled out of the qualifiers due to the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
The FIBA, however, has yet to make an official announcement whether there will be forfeitures or rescheduling of the third window in February 2021.
Gilas was initially set to tackle Thailand on Nov. 26 and 30, as well as Korea on Nov. 28.
There were also reports that Gilas has been scheduled to play four games in as many days, including against Indonesia.
Uichico is not taking the Thais for granted, especially since they are reportedly fielding the core of Hi-Tech Bangkok City, which ruled last year’s Thailand Basketball Super League, and the 2020 Thailand Basketball League.