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Gilas goes Italian

Now on its final steps in its preparation for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) next month, Gilas Pilipinas takes on Italy at the start of a pocket tournament in Bologna.

The squad of coach Tab Baldwin meets the 35th-ranked team in FIBA and powered by NBA veterans in guard Marco Belinelli of the Charlotte Hornets and forward Danilo Gallinari of the Denver Nuggets.

Originally a draft pick of the New York Knicks in 2008, the 6-foot-10 eight-year veteran Gallinari has played the past five years with the Nuggets, averaging a career best 19.5 points with 5.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists.

The 6-foot-5 point guard Belinelli, selected by the Golden State Warriors back in 2007, has been bounced around the league that included a stint with 2013 NBA champion San Antonio Spurs.

The losing team in Day 1 of the competition will face the losing team of the encounter between Canada and China in the consolation battle for third, while the winners dispute the championship the next day.

The match between the Philippines and Italy is set Saturday (early Sunday Manila time). Baldwin will name the Final 12 players for the OQT on Sunday at 6 p.m. via teleconference with SBP officials and the media.

Baldwin said the national team has to move forward and concentrate on its encounter against the Italians following a disappointing 103-68 defeat to Turkey in a tuneup match last Thursday.

“What’s important is how we’re going to bounce back,” said Baldwin.

“We came out of that camp feeling really good about ourselves, perhaps too good about ourselves. As coaches, we were ready for a little bit of a setback but I don’t think we were ready for the performance we put out there because it really didn’t represent how we played in the camp,” added Baldwin.

The setback against Turkey came two days after the Filipinos ended a nine-day training camp in Greece. Naturalized player Andray Blatche led the national team with 21 points while Jayson Castro added 15 points.

Baldwin said there is no need to push the panic button with that disastrous performance in Istanbul, but the tournament in Bologna should serve as a stage for a fresh start.

“It’s not a cause for panic but we need to push the reset button a little bit mentally. We have to test what we’ve become, not allow ourselves to fall back to who we were before the camp because we know that won’t succeed,” said Baldwin.

“I think we have to step forward mentally. We’ve done a lot of physical work but mentally we were not up to par,” added Baldwin, now on his second tenure as coach of the national team.