LESS than two weeks before it goes to battle in the November window of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers in Manama, Bahrain, Gilas Pilipinas hit the ground running last Friday in Calamba, Laguna.
After getting the greenlight from the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Infectious Emerging Diseases early Friday morning, the all-amateur national team training pool held its first practice in a bubble at the Inspire Sports Academy.
Center Isaac Go, guard Rey Suerte, wingman Allyn Bulanadi, and twins Matt and Mike Nieto, all Gilas special draftees last year, and wingman Jaydee Tungcab lead the 16-man pool.
Joining them are University of the Philippines standouts Kobe Paras, and Juan and Javi Gomez de Liano, Dave Ildefonso, Will Navarro, and Dwight Ramos of Ateneo, La Salle big man Justine Baltazar, reigning NCAA MVP Calvin Oftana and San Beda teammate Kemark Cariño, and the Blue Eagles’ naturalized player candidate Angelo Kouame of Ivory Coast.
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas program director and Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin will call the shots for the nationals along with former pro league champion strategist Jong Uichico, Red Lions tactician Boyet Fernandez, and TNT assistant Alton Lister.
“The SBP is happy to announce that we have received the go-ahead from Chief Implementer of the National Action Plan Against COVID-19 Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr. and the Deputy Chief Implementer Undersecretary Vince Dizon to start training for our Gilas Pilipinas Men’s Team in preparation for the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers, which will happen from November 26 to 30 in Manama, Bahrain. The SBP already had a plan in place to form a team for the November window weeks ago but we had to make sure we did everything by the book because of the current situation,” SBP president Al Panlilio said in a statement.
“SBP Chairman Emeritus Manny V. Pangilinan, being part of the FIBA’s Central Board, has been adamant about our participation as FIBA restarts the Asia Cup Qualifiers to further strengthen our partnership with them and show that we’re completely behind them in this endeavor. MVP’s guidance has been pivotal throughout this process and we’re happy to finally get the green light.”
The team is set to leave for Bahrain on Thursday.
Gilas clashes with Thailand on Nov. 26; Korea two days later, and Thailand anew on Nov. 30, according to a schedule posted on the FIBA website.
Citing the health perils and uncertainties posed by the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic, Korea has reportedly pulled out of the November window.
Under interim coach Mark Dickel, Gilas whipped Indonesia 100-70 last Feb. 23 three days after their match against Thailand last Feb. 20 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum was cancelled due to the pandemic.