Gilas Pilipinas ready to shock the world in FIBA Olympic Qualifiers

MANILA, Philippines - The 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifiers Manila happens at the Mall Of Asia Arena in Pasay City. The entire tournament will run from July 5 until July 10.

Gilas Pilipinas ready to shock the world in FIBA Olympic Qualifiers
Despite of its underdog status, Gilas Pilipinas will try to conquer the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifiers!
Gilas Pilipinas, bannered by PBA veterans and reinforced by NBADL Texas Legends shooting guard Bobby Ray Parks and naturalized Filipino and former Brooklyn Nets center Andray Blacthe will face the global heavyweights France and New Zealand in bracket A and Turkey and Afrobasket runner-up Senegal in bracket B.

Team Pilipinas will test the NBA-loaded former Eurobasket champions team France led by San Antonio Spurs all-star guard Tony Parker on Tuesday, July 5 at 9:00pm. Aside from Parker, other NBA stars will defend the French Flag here in Manila like Charlotte Hornets’ Nicolas Batum, Spurs forward Boris Diaw, Orlando Magic’s Evan Fornier, New Orleans Pelicans’ Alex Anjinca and and former Spurs Nando De Colo.

After the opening game versus France, Gilas will play New Zealand on Wednesday, July 6, still at 9:00 p.m. The Kiwis will be playing the entire tournament minus Oklahoma City Thunder Center Steven Adams.

The National Team has just wrapped up its three-week intense training camp in Europe along with friendly games and pocket tournaments against Italy, Turkey and China. Coach Tab Baldwin’s ward lost three of their Europe tune-up games while winning only one against their Asian rivals China.

Short preparation was the main cause of Gilas’ poor performance abroad. They got clobbered by Turkey and Italy by 30-plus points. Just last Friday, July 1st, Philippines hosted Turkey for their final tune-up game before gearing up for the main event. A better and improved Gilas gave the Turkish Team led by another New Orleans Pelicans big man Omer Asik a hard time for forty minutes but still fell short.

Despite of the debacles, Coach Baldwin and his boys are still confident that Philippines will still shock the world and will head onto Rio Olympics in August.

Coach Tab Baldwin got criticized by many Filipino basketball enthusiasts for cutting LA Tenorio and Calvin Abueva from the official roster. The American-Kiwi mentor explained that trimming Tenorio and Abueva is nothing personal but pure business. Gilas Pilipinas need taller players that can match their counterparts’ “above-the-ceiling” height advantage.

By excluding the 5’8” Tenorio and 6’2” Abueva, Philippines has just formed its best and tallest roster after decades of competing internationally with the new average height of 6’5”. Tenorio and Abueva both still have slim chance in making the lineup as final minute replacements should there be any injured player on the current player-list. Aside from additional height to Team Pilipinas, the nationals will be leaning heavy on the Filipino fans and will make use of home court advantage.

Gilas Pilipinas will have to win at least one of its two elimination games to advance to the semifinals round on July 9. In case of tie in win-loss records, there will be no sudden death game, instead, quotient system will be applied to determine who will march onto the next round. Losing to both France and New Zealand will shatter Philippines’ Rio Olympics dream. Only the champion team will play in the Olympics together with the two other winners from the qualifying tournaments in Italy and Serbia.

On the other bracket, Team Canada is highly favored to dominate Senegal and Turkey with its own NBA-laden line-up. NBA Champion and Cleveland Cavaliers Center Tristan Thompson has already arrived in Manila together with 2013 NBA and Cavs top pick overall Anthony Bennett, Detroit Pistons’ Joel Anthony, Milwaukee Bucks’ Tyler Ennis, Toronto Raptors’ Cory Joseph, 7’5” former Sacramento Kings’ Sim Bhullar and the rest of Canadian Men’s Basketball Team.

Philippines, being the only team in the tournament which doesn’t have an active NBA player will surely be the underdog of this tournament but it can’t be counted out just yet. Home court advantage will play a big role in boosting the national cagers’ morale.

In order to win, Gilas must be a consistent threat in the three point territory. The 30 plus point margin victory by Italy and Turkey indicates lack in the defensive end for the nationals. Leveling up everyone’s defensive abilities will make a huge difference in all of their games.

Here’s the complete schedule of Manila FIBA Qualifiers:

July 5

6:30pm – Turkey vs Canada
9:00pm – France vs Philippines

July 6

6:30pm – Canada vs Senegal
9:00pm – Philippines vs New Zealand

July 7

6:30pm – Senegal vs Turkey
9:00pm – New Zealand vs France

July 9

6:30pm – Semifinals 1
9:00pm – Semifinals 2

July 10

8:30pm – Finals

All games will be aired live by Sports 5 on TV5 and Interaksyon. Tickets are still being sold online via Patron VIP and Patrons seats are no longer available. Lower box tickets are now amounting to Php7,260 while upper box costs Php430 and general admission is the cheapest for Php215.

On behalf of The Summit Express, we wish our national cagers the best of luck. Laban Pilipinas, PUSO!

--Joey Boy Capos, The Summit Express

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