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2020 Tokyo Olympics

Serbia will not take Gilas, DR lightly: ‘It’s not about the name, it’s about the game’


Gilas Pilipinas head coach Tab Baldwin knows that Serbia will not let up when it takes the floor of the Aleksandar Nikolić Hall for the 2021 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade.

As you put all those things in, you should expect a high-caliber basketball team. Now that they are playing for a berth in the Olympics and at home, you have a formula for a great team. That’s what we expect to run out of the court within a couple of days,” said Baldwin.

And Serbian Igor Kokoškov expects his team to play with excellence and respect while they vie for an Olympic slot that they believe should have been theirs as early as the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

Bannering the team that will face the Dominican Republic tonight and Gilas on July 1 are Nemanja Bjelica, Boban Marjanovic, Milos Teodosic, Stefan Jovic, and Vasilije Micic.

Also in the squad are Milos Teodosic, Danilo Andusic, Aleksa Avramovic, Dejan Davidovac, Ognjen Dobric, Nikola Kalinic, Vasilije Marjanovic, and Dragan Milosajljevic.

History is also on Serbia’s side. It is a combined 11-0 against the other four teams competing in the Qualifiers — including 1-0 against Gilas, a 126-67 win during the 2019 Worlds.

“We will not underestimate any of these teams. It’s not about the name, it’s about the game. Names are not playing, games are played by the players.

“We have to bring our best game and play our best basketball,” said Kokoškov, the former head coach of the Phoenix Suns.

Team captain Kalinić seconded his mentor’s outlook, saying that they are heading into the tournament with a win-at-all-cost mindset.

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“It’s different like we watched a lot of videos and prepared for this. We saw a different style of play from the Europeans — fewer tactics, more one-on-one situations, and isolation. But I think we need to react better to the moment, react better to the game, and adjust,” said the Euroleague’s top scorer in 2017.

“I think we have a lot of quality to do that, and we have a lot of experienced guys with high basketball IQ. I think we are able and we are capable to react to the moment and take the wins. We only need to win the game, not to win by thirty or forty — just by one.”

For Kokoškov, this tournament is their only chance to build chemistry if ever they reach the Olympics.

Moreover, they have a duty to bring the best out of their guests as they are the hosts.

“We have to focus on ourselves because we are a new team. We just started playing together. Nikola, for objective purposes, was just with us three days ago. This is a new teams and trying to incorporate all these pieces of information that we had just to focus on ourselves,” he said.

“We have a lot of respect for all teams playing and everyone is playing basketball. It’s not a phrase; we are not just showing up, we will show respect. We are not underestimating any of these teams.”

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