12:15 a.m. – Philippines vs India
Gilas Pilipinas begins its new life under a collection of top amateur standouts when it battles India at the start of the FIBA Asia Challenge early tomorrow at the Twelve Thousand People Sports Hall in Tehran, Iran.
Even without the likes of Kiefer Ravena, Bobby Ray Parks and Jio Jalalon to name a few, the Gilas cagers hope to start the new program on the right direction in their 12:15 a.m. encounter with the Indians in the competition that serves as a qualifier for next year’s FIBA Asia Cup.
Josh Reyes, a longtime assistant in the PBA and UAAP, will call the shots for the team that will be led by former Gilas Cadets players Mac Belo, Roger Pogoy, Mike Tolomia, Kevin Ferrer, Russell Escoto, and Von Pessumal.
Making their Gilas debuts in the Iranian capital are Ed Daquioag, CJ Perez, Arnold Van Opstal, Carl Bryan Cruz, Chris Javier and Ponso Gotladera.
While winning the tournament will be a boost for the young squad, Reyes also stressed the importance of gaining experience for future events such as the 2019 World Cup qualifiers.
“Of course, all of us are going into the tournament to win, but at the same time, we know that the most important thing is the experience and them learning to play at this level,” said the son of former Gilas coach Chot Reyes as quoted by FIBA’s official website.
“If you look at all the teams, there’s really no easy grouping. We’ll just try our best to compete with these teams,” he said. “Hopefully, we can sneak a few wins here and there. But really, these kids need a lot of experience and that’s what these games are for,” said Reyes.
Gilas is in Group B that also includes Taiwan but no one from the bracket will be eliminated as they will also face Group A squads Jordan, China and Kazakhstan in the second round.
While the opener would appear to be an easy one, Gilas could face stiff opposition from India, which over the past few years has gained strides in the Asian basketball scene.