It had been a crazy eight months for Gilas Pilipinas that saw them living in different bubbles across four countries.
And on their last night in Amman, Jordan, the team had dinner at Copacabana Brazilian Steak House in Amman, Jordan where stories were shared over meat and wine.
“A great tour, a great campaign in 2021…so far, and, most importantly, a truly outstanding group of young men,” read the post of Gilas program director and head coach Tab Baldwin.
Definitely, it has been a crazy ride for Gilas so far.
Back in January, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas called for a bubble training at Inspire Sports Academy for the Doha window of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers.
Six PBA players in Kiefer Ravena, CJ Perez, Justin Chua, Troy Rosario, Roger Pogoy, and Raul Soyud joined the team that competed in the Manama window back in November. Kai Sotto would later join the team in February.
However, the Qatar Basketball Federation ultimately had to cancel their hosting of the window due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The entire pool had to be sent back home.
It won’t be long before Gilas would reconvene in Inspire as the federation called Gilas back on March 15.
With the PBA teams set to begin their training for the Philippine Cup, new faces were invited to the pool.
Joining Isaac Go, the Nieto twins, Rey Suerte, Jordan Heading, William Navarro, Tzaddy Rangel, and Jaydee Tungcab were RJ Abarrientos, Carl Tamayo, Lebron Lopez, Kyle Ong, Gian Mamuyac, Jason Credo, Joshua Lazaro, Troy Mallillin, Geo Chiu, and SJ Belangel. Jolo Mendoza would also arrive later on.
The camp would only last for two weeks as NCR was put in ECQ.
FIBA would then award the hosting of three pools in the Asia Cup Qualifiers to the Philippines. With a definite date for the Qualifiers and the Philippines also competing in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade, 20 players were called back to re-enter the Calambubble.
Matt Nieto, Dave Ildefonso, Rey Suerte, Jason Credo, and Kemark Carino would all go down to injuries leaving Gilas with just 15 men in the bubble. Good news also came to the national team as Kouame was finally granted Philippine citizenship on May 18, making him eligible to play for Gilas as early as the Clark window.
Sotto would later join the team days before the Qualifiers.
Special was Gilas’ campaign in the Asia Cup Qualifiers as they swept the competition in Clark that included two wins against archrival South Korea and neighbor Indonesia.
But Gilas were given little rest after that as they had to fly to Serbia for the OQT.
Though Gilas lost both of their games against Serbia and the Dominican Republic, it showed that the future is bright for the team.
Another camp in Inspire was put up by Gilas just two weeks after the OQT. This time it was in preparation for the Asia Cup proper. In addition, the Philippines was also invited to join the King Abdullah Cup.
Back in Gilas were Dwight Ramos, Angelo Kouame, Carl Tamayo, Isaac Go, Matt Nieto, Mike Nieto, Rey Suerte, Dave Ildefonso, Geo Chiu, Jordan Heading, Justine Baltazar, RJ Abarrientos, SJ Belangel, William Navarro, and the returning Thirdy Ravena.
The King’s Cup though would be the last tournament of Gilas for the foreseeable future as the Asia Cup has been postponed to next year along with the 31st Southeast Asian Games.
But Baldwin is hopeful that the November window of the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers pushes through while some pocket tournaments like the King’s Cup pop up.
“Until we meet again…SOON!!!”