MANILA – It is imperative for Gilas Pilipinas to shoot well from the outside if it wants to keep in step with most of the top basketball powers in the coming FIBA World Cup.
National coach Yeng Guiao stressed the point Tuesday in the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum at the Amelie Hotel- Manila, noting that in games the Filipinos won during their training camp in Spain and in their two tune-ups against a visiting Australian pro ballclub, good perimeter shooting had been the common denominator.
“When we’re shooting well, we win games. When we’re shooting well, it becomes a little bit easier to win games,” said Guiao during the weekly forum, where he was joined by Gilas captain Gabe Norwood and team manager Gabby Cui.
“That’s exactly true in the tune-up games that we played. Nung Sunday ang sama ng shooting natin, hindi natin tinalo ang (On Sunday, our shooting was very poor, we did not beat Australia. First time, maganda ang shooting natin, tinalo natin sila (our shooting went well, and we beat them),” the national coach pointed out, referring to the friendlies the team played against the Adelaide 36ers, which the two sides split.
Then there’s the 10-day training camp in the cities of Guadalajara and Malaga, which included a pocket tournament featuring world no. 2 Spain.
“It’s the same way in Spain. The only bad game we played was the game against Congo when we shot really bad from the outside. But the three games that we won in Spain, we were really shooting well,” said Guiao, who even noted that Gilas pulled those wins even without top gunners Marcio Lassiter and Roger Pogoy.
Owing to the MCL sprain suffered during the PBA Commissioner’s Cup playoffs, Lassiter was left out of the official 12-man roster, which is composed of Andray Blatche, June Mar Fajardo, Troy Rosario, Japeth Aguilar, Pogoy, Norwood, Mark Barroca, Paul Lee, Raymund Almazan, comebacking Kiefer Ravena, and Gilas newcomers Robert Bolick and CJ Perez.
As it is, Pogoy is the only natural shooter in the team in the absence of Lassiter and Matthew Wright, another injured player.
While it is a bit of a concern, Guiao has a lot of confidence in his team.
“Crucial ang outside shooting natin, pero (Our outside shooting is crucial but) I feel these guys can step up when the time comes,” said the Gilas coach in the forum presented by San Miguel Corp., Braska Restaurant, Amelie Hotel, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).
For Norwood, who is seeing action in his second World Cup stint, the current batch of Gilas is almost the same as the one that competed in the 2014 edition of the meet in Spain - where the Filipinos played competitive games against the likes of Croatia, Greece, Argentina, Puerto Rico, and Senegal.
“In terms of the players with the 12 there out there, I think there’s a lot of similarities (from the 2014),” said the big guard of Rain or Shine, adding the only difference was in terms of the ‘different level of preparation that comes in,’ after FIBA decided to reformat the tournament by now holding a home-and-away series of qualifiers to the world meet.
Gilas is bracketed in Group D with Serbia, Italy, and Angola. It leaves for Foshan, China on Thursday (Aug. 29) and will play the Azurri on the opening day of the meet on Saturday.
President Duterte, who will be leaving for Beijing on Wednesday (Aug. 28) for an official state visit, is going to watch the Gilas-Italy game.
“As of now were working with the Presidential Office and with the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), making sure that he (Duterte) gets good seats to support and cheer the Philippines,” said Cui. “We’re really happy and looking forward to having the president watch us there. We really appreciate his support."
Efforts are also being arranged for the team to personally meet the Chief Executive.
“Definitely, we’ll find a way to have him (Duterte) meet the team. We will have it schedule with the Presidential Staff. They’ll (be) coordinating with the SBP as of now,” added the Gilas team manager. (PR)