Gilas Pilipinas will buckle down to work early for the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Qualifiers’ third and final window in February in Clark, Pampanga.
Though the composition of the pool remains unknown at this point, Coach Jong Uichico said that the Nationals will prepare as early as January, with the aim of helping the players acclimatize with the system.
“We’ll start early for next year, for Window Three. We’ll start really early,” the decorated bench tactician said in an online press conference held Thursday to announce the partnership between SMART and FIBA.
“We’ll come in some time early January so that we can get together for a longer period of time that gives the system to mature, the players to mature in terms of the system, and get everything on track.”
Inspire Sports Academy will once again host the training camp bubble.
The all-Cadets team that saw action in the second window last November didn’t have much time to prepare. They only had nine days to practice in Calamba before flying to Manama, Bahrain to play Thailand twice.
Gilas, though, managed to blow out their Southeast Asian rivals twice despite the limited time, hiking the Philippines’ record to 3-0 in the Qualifiers.
Despite those impressive results, Gilas isn’t taking any chances for the next window to be held in a bubble set-up, where they will be up against a familiar foe in Indonesia and long-time tormentors in South Korea.
The Indonesians turned heads in Manama when they manhandled the Thais, 90-76, behind the stellar play of Brandon Jawato and naturalized center Lester Prosper in their first international game with Timnas.
The Koreans, meanwhile, remain a thorn on the side of the Filipino cagers. They haven’t beaten the dribblers from East Asia since the semifinals of the 2013 FIBA Asia Cup.
SoKor begged off from the previous window, citing health concerns due to the COVID-19 situation. It will play the games it missed in Manama in the next window, meaning it will play four games in five days in Clark.
Gilas will play Korea twice and that tough schedule may bode well for the former, although the latter remains a tough team to beat. It beat Indonesia (106-79) and Thailand (93-86) in the first window to place second in Group A.
Still, Uichico approaches their upcoming matches with optimism despite the challenges both squads are set to give the home team.
“I think the advantage that we have is we know Coach Rajko’s (Toroman) system. We played Coach Rajko in the Southeast Asian Games in 2019, and we’ve seen him play in Bahrain,” he said.
“When it comes to Korea, this will be the first time that these guys (Cadets) will play Korea. I think they’ll take it as a challenge, and I think it’s a very good experience for them to play Korea two games here.“