FIBA Asia Qualifiers: Gilas Pilipinas’ formula in beating South Korea

MANILA, Philippines – The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) is preparing heavily as it maximizes its home-court advantage in the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Qualifiers this February.

Forming a competitive lineup has always been the problem of SBP due to various circumstances. One of those is the availability of the pro players from the PBA.

Lucky for SBP that PBA is on break at the time of the qualifiers, so a pool of reinforcement is onhand. Plus, 7’3” Kai Sotto’s homecoming will be a big boost for the entire Gilas Pilipinas.

Gilas Pilipinas’ formula in beating South Korea
 Kai Sotto assures the Filipinos that he’ll be home for the third window of FIBA Asia Qualifiers. Photo Credit:

However, personal player reasons hampered the SBP in assembling what could have been the best Gilas Pilipinas lineup ever.

SBP, headed by Ryan Gregorio, has bared its whitelist of PBA players since late last year. But due to injuries and COVID-19 anxieties, only half a dozen pros committed to join Gilas Pilipinas training camp in Calamba, Laguna.

NLEX’s Kiefer Ravena led the PBA delegation with fellow Road Warrior Raul Soyud, Terrafirma Dyip CJ Perez, Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters Justin Chua, and TNT Tropang Giga standouts Roger Pogoy and Troy Rosario.

The PBA pros will be joined by Gilas draftees Isaac Go, Rey Suerte, and twins Matt and Mike Nieto with cadets Justin Baltazar, Calvin Oftana, Javi Gomez de Liano, Dave Ildefonso, Will Navarro, Kemark Carino, and Dwight Ramos and Juan Gomez de Liano who both haven’t checked in the “Calambubble.”

Aside from the PBA players and college stalwarts, Ivorian Angelo Koume from ADMU will also attend the training camp. The 6’10” center is just a few steps away from acquiring his Filipino citizenship but won’t make it on time for the qualifiers.

With the talented pool that SBP has, coach Gregorio, Coach Jong Uichico, and the rest of the coaching staff will have a hard time finalizing a 12-man lineup before the tournament.

Gilas Pilipinas is currently leading its bracket after an outstanding performance in the second window. The nationals, however, are facing tough assignments in the third window as they challenge powerhouse South Korea and vastly-improved Indonesia.

South Korea has earlier reported sending its A-Team spearheaded by a naturalized player and former PBA import Ricardo Ratliffe aka Ra Gun-ah. Indonesia will be bannered by another ex-PBA reinforcement, Lester Prosper.

Gilas Pilipinas has a chance of beating both South Korea and Indonesia come February 18-22 in Clark, Angeles City in Pampanga despite having only six PBA players on its roster.

The Philippines needs to match the firepower of South Korea from the three-point territory, which can be handled by Pogoy, Ramos, Gomez de Liano brothers, and Nieto twins.

Gilas Pilipinas could even increase its odds of dismantling its biggest Asian rival if it could only have shooters Marcio Lassiter and Matthew Wright on the floor. But then again, the focus should be on the currently available players.

Ratliffe will surely be a problem underneath the basket, but Sotto and Rosario can cover the shaded lane while Chua and Baltazar could both be good backups to the potential big men starters. PBA fans are still dreaming though, of a big three in Sotto, June Mar Fajardo, and Japeth Aguilar.

Should the Philippines drop its games versus South Korea, it still has the chance to advance, as the top two teams in each bracket will be guaranteed seats to the FIBA Asia Cup. But winning a game either from South Korea or Indonesia will surely reward the Philippines a ticket to the prestigious regional tournament.

— Joey Boy Capos, The Summit Express

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