Gilas to hit the ground running

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    GILAS Pilipinas is set to hit the ground running for the third window of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers.

    Twelve players arrived yesterday at the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna to prepare for the qualifiers set on Feb. 18 to 22 in a bubble in Clark.

    Big man Isaac Go led the 12 that included twins Matt and Mike Nieto, guard Rey Suerte, forward Javi Gomez de Liaño, guard Dave Ildefonso, and big men Justine Baltazar, Calvin Oftana, William Navarro, and Kemark Cariño.

    Joining Gilas in Calamba were pro league star Kiefer Ravena of NLEX and Ateneo center Angelo Kouame of Ivory Coast, a candidate for naturalization.

    The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas has yet to announce the composition of the national team training pool.

    Gilas program director Tab Baldwin, coaches Jong Uichico, Boyet Fernandez, Sandy Arespacochaga, Caloy Garcia, and Norman Black are expected to join the players in the bubble training camp.

    “These young men have not only proven their dedication to the Gilas program but have also shown their capability to work well as a team as we saw in the two games against Thailand in the last window,” SBP president Al Panlilio said.

    “I’m thankful for their commitment as we continue to lay the foundation for the team we will form in 2023,” he added.

    The second batch of players likely made up of pros is expected to arrive on Jan. 22.

    “As always we appreciate the unwavering support of PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial and the PBA Board to the Gilas program,” Panlilio said.

    “We had very good discussions with the PBA and we were able to get the commitment of several PBA players who will be part of the second batch coming into the bubble training on January 22nd.”

    The Philippine five tangles with old nemesis South Korea on Feb. 18, a reset of their initial match that was called off in the second window, in Group A action, according to a schedule released by the FIBA.

    Gilas battles Indonesia on Feb. 20 and then South Korea on Feb. 22 anew.

    FIBA, however, has yet to release the time and venue for those matches.

    South Korea pulled off from the second window due to the health risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and will square off with Indonesia on Feb. 19, and Thailand a day after.

    The Indonesians and the Thais clash for the last time on Feb. 22.

    Gilas fielded an all-amateur squad in the second window last November in Manama, Bahrain.

    Without a naturalized player, the Filipino dribblers, with Uichico calling the shots, completed a two-game sweep of Thailand to remain unbeaten with a 3-0 card.