The Philippines has traditionally dominated the basketball scene in the Southeast Asian region, but Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes remains rightfully wary of the competition ahead of the crucial 2017 SEABA Championship.
Since its inception in 1994, the Philippines has won the SEABA Championship seven times, including the most recent iteration of the event in 2015, where they won all five games in the tournament.
The 2017 edition of the SEABA Championship carries a special significance for Gilas Pilipinas, however. It serves as the qualifying tournament for the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup, and thus the first step in the national team’s journey to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Accordingly, Reyes said they cannot afford to slip up in their preparations; otherwise, all we be lost for the Gilas team.
“We have no room for error in this tournament,” Reyes said emphatically on Tuesday in a press conference at Holiday Inn.
With this in mind, Gilas Pilipinas will escalate the intensity of its practices after the PBA’s All-Star break, when players in the national team pool are released by their mother teams.
“We will resume daily practices after the Holy Week. We’ve been having good attendance in practice, but as you know, it’s a situation where we’re still allowing players to play for their mother teams,” Reyes explained.
“On May 1, we’ll go full speed ahead for the tournament,” he added.
The national team got a bit of good news on Monday, when team manager Butch Antonio confirmed that naturalized player Andray Blatche is ready to beef up Gilas Pilipinas in its SEABA campaign.
“We’re trying to get him here by the last week of April, so he’ll be acclimatized by the time we go full speed ahead in Coach Chot’s practices,” Antonio said Tuesday.
In the meantime, the national team will continue to gear up for SEABA with its daily practices as well as the three PBA All-Star Games in the last week of April. Their performance in the All-Star games and attendance in practice will help Reyes decide on who will make the Final 12.
“Our minds are very open,” he said. “We are evaluating every practice, we’ll evaluate how they play in the All-Star, and we’ll evaluate the intangibles. We’ll make the determination on the 28th.” (C. Naredo, abs-cbn sports)