The Philippines’ perimeter and three-point shooting will determine their fate in the World Cup

By Nicole Ganglani | Photo by Tristan Tamayo

The Philippine men’s national basketball team will be heading back to the world stage in less than three days. At this point, the only thing they should be thinking about is how they’re going to defeat powerhouses Italy, Serbia, and African champion Angola. The Philippine team will have to deliver their best performance yet and at least make it to the top two seed in their competitive bracket in order to advance to the next round of the FIBA World Cup.

What Gilas is currently facing reminds me of my time in high school. I never excelled in any of my subjects (well, besides physical education), so every time exam season arrived, I knew I was going to go through the toughest weeks of my life. Being in a place where I was at risk of failing a number of different subjects, I knew that scoring at least 75 percent in every single exam was absolutely crucial.

As with our national team, every single game is going to determine if they’ve got what it takes to represent the country in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

We have tunnel vision on Italy because we feel that’s going to be our most important game. All our resources with our scouting, time have been focused on that, said Guiao

According to Gilas head coach Yeng Guiao, the coaching staff has all hands on deck with their preparations, especially for the game against Italy where Gilas will meet Oklahoma City Thunder big man Danilo Gallinari and former NBA veteran Luigi Datome. If Gilas beats Italy on Sunday, not only will they be building much needed momentum—it will also significantly lessen the pressure to defeat world power Serbia. Guiao and his squad are more confident about their chances of upsetting Italy and Angola.

“We have tunnel vision on Italy because we feel that’s going to be our most important game,” All our resources with our scouting, time have been focused on that,” said Guiao.

Guiao Guns for Gilas’ Perimeter Shooting

The Filipinos are entering the World Cup without its two best shooters Marcio Lassiter and Matthew Wright. The team will be depending on RR Pogoy to score as much as he can from the perimeter. The team’s perimeter shooting is going to be their biggest weapon in the World Cup. This was proven during their two tune-up games in Spain where the team won one game against Australian professional team Adelaide 36ers.

“When we’re shooting well, it becomes a little bit easier to win games,” said Guiao.”It’s the same way in Spain. The only bad game we played was the game against Congo when we shot really bad from the outside. But the three games that we won in Spain, we were really shooting well,” added the NLEX coach.

The team’s official 12-man roster is composed of Andray Blatche, June Mar Fajardo, Troy Rasio, Japeth Aguillar, Pogoy Norwood, Mark Barroca, Paul Lee, Raymund Almazan, Kiefer Ravena, and new recruits Robert Bollick and CJ Perez. Gilas will be putting their World Cup faith on their three-point shooting and hopefully get to produce from inside the paint.

All in for the World Cup

Though Gilas should rely on their shooting in the World Cup, it won’t be enough for them to advance. Take the USA men’s basketball team, for example: Even if their roster is composed of a lot of shooters from the NBA, the team is still facing some doubt whether or not they they could win the championship. In a tournament where most teams are loaded with talent and height, Gilas needs to treat every defensive and offensive possession like it’s the last game they will ever play.

But then again, passion, enthusiasm, and dedication have never really issues for the Philippine’s national basketball team. It’s just that they’re all always either outperformed or overwhelmed by their opponents. According to veteran Gabe Noorwood, the team has its similarities with the 2014 Gilas squad that competed in Spain. In 2014, they shocked the world  and made history when they appeared in the World Cup for the first time in 40 years. And all this despite their 1-4 standing.

This year, Gilas Pilipinas aims to make history as well—but with a different script. Exam season has arrived once again and the Philippines has one shot to determine their fate. If four years ago the team announced its arrival in the world basketball stage, this year is all about proving that they have what it takes to defeat take on high-caliber teams from around the world.

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