Grueling schedule awaits Gilas

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    FOUR games in as many days?

    Already in cramming mode in its preparations, a grueling schedule awaits Gilas Pilipinas if and when the November window of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers pushes through in a bubble in Manama, Bahrain.

    In a revised schedule of the qualifiers that came out online, the all-amateur Gilas squad battles Thailand on Nov. 27, a day moved from the original date; Korea on Nov. 28, Indonesia on the 29th, and Thailand anew on the 30th.

    The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas has yet to confirm Gilas’ new schedule.

    The match against Korea is hanging in the air after the Koreans reportedly pulled out of the November qualifiers due to health risks and uncertainties brought about by the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic.

    The 16-man national team training pool is toughening up in a bubble of its own at the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna and is set to leave for Bahrain tomorrow.
    Gilas buckled down to work just last Friday after getting the green light from the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Infectious Emerging Diseases.

    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 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.

    While eight teams have been eliminated in the PBA Philippine Cup, the SBP opted not to tap pros for the qualifiers due to the taxing stint they endured in the bubble in Angeles City, Pampanga.

    “The reality there is, we saw kung gaano iyong hardship ng mga PBA players natin inside the bubble for a long, long time. Being away from their families, and also the wear and tear, not just the physical aspect, but also their mental health,” SBP special assistant to the president Ryan Gregorio said during an online episode of “OT.”