‘Much, much better’ version of 2014 Gilas team needed for this year’s World Cup–Chot
MANILA, Philippines — Returning to the biggest basketball stage after nine years, coach Chot Reyes and Gilas Pilipinas know that they need to adapt to the evolution of the game when they compete in the Fiba World Cup 2023 in August.
Reyes, who steered the Philippines in its return to the World Cup in 2014 and the historic win over Senegal in Seville, Spain, said the game has changed since then so the Filipinos have to keep up with the whole new level of their competitors.
“It’s a kind of situation where I’ve been here before. I kind of know what to expect but then again the game is always evolving. Our competition is always evolving and getting better so it is incumbent on us to match that to continue to be better,” said Reyes after the draw on Saturday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Under Reyes in 2014, the Gilas team led by Andray Blatche, Jimmy Alapag, and Jayson Castro put up a gallant stand against Croatia, Greece, Puerto Rico, and Argentina before beating Senegal.
‘MUCH MUCH BETTER’
But for the 59-year-old coach, the current men’s national basketball team has to surpass that level to be competitive in the country’s historic hosting of the World Cup.
“I think if we come in with the game we brought in 2014 it’s not going to be enough. We have to be much, much better. And I hope that from now to then we can find a way to really become a much better team,” he said. “I hope the whole Filipino nation is behind us praying and supporting that we put the best team forward.”
The Philippines headlined Pool A and will play against Dominican Republic on August 25 at Philippine Arena on opening day. It then faces Angola on August 27 before wrapping up its first-round campaign against Italy on August 29 both at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Reyes is looking to put in “a very good tune-up preparation schedule” like what they did in 2014 to take his team to the peak level. He said that they already scheduled a couple of friendlies and an upcoming camp set from June to July but didn’t divulge the details yet.
The Gilas Pilipinas coach is seeking to form the best team possible with all the players in the country being available to play for the World Cup with all the leagues — both local and overseas — throwing their full support to the event.
“We’re not picking the best talent. We’re putting the best team together. We’re not putting a group of superstars. We want to pick the best team possible,” Reyes said.
But for now, Reyes is keeping his focus on the Filipinos’ gold medal-redemption bid in the 32nd Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia next month.
“For now, it’s the Southeast Asian Games first. I’m glad that this (draw) is over we can think about this. But what’s in front of us right now is first the Southeast Asian Games,” he said.
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