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No ifs and buts – just win.
That is what Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Al Panlilio expects from Gilas Pilipinas when it competes in the Southeast Asian Basketball Association (SEABA) Championships that the country is hosting on May 12 to 18 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The said event serves as qualifying tournament for countries from the Southeast Asian region, with the SEABA champion advancing to the FIBA Asia Cup on August 10-20 in Lebanon.
The Asia Cup, on the other hand, is the qualifier for the 2019 World Cup in China. The top 14 teams in the Asian Cup will compete in the new FIBA home-and-away format starting in November.
“It’s a long journey for us,” said Panlilio during a press briefing yesterday at the Holiday Inn Manila Galleria in Pasig City. “We have to win it (SEABA), no ifs or buts for Gilas Pilipinas.”
National coach Chot Reyes shared the sentiment, adding that their focus is on winning the SEABA which for him is now a tough competition as other countries have strengthened their respective rosters by tapping naturalized players.
Reyes mentioned that teams to watch include Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. Other countries seeing action are Myanmar and Vietnam.
“They’re finalizing their naturalize players, so lahat tinitignan natin as serious competition,” said Reyes, also the president of TV5. “There is no room for error in this tournament.”
Gilas practice resumes on April 17 – hopefully with naturalized center Andray Blatche on board after he finished his commitment in China.
The management of Gilas Pilipinas, led by SBP deputy director for international affairs Butch Antonio, already spoke to the handlers of the 6-foot-11 Blatche, who is expected to play for the national team.