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Unlike in the past when the Philippines dominates the opposition in Southeast Asia, Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes is approaching with caution the Southeast Asian Basketball Association (SEABA) Championship set May 12 to 18 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
That is because countries like Thailand and Indonesia are likely to field their respective naturalized players to counter the national team with its own import in Andray Blatche.
Reyes recalled the previous Southeast Asian Games in Singapore when the Philippines – under coach Tab Baldwin with naturalized player Marcus Douthit – nearly lost to Thailand in the semifinal round, escaping with a heart-pounding 80-75 win.
In the gold medal match of the biennial event, the Nationals – bannered by amateur Cadets like Scottie Thompson, Jio Jalalon, Kevin Ferrer and Mac Belo – battled tooth-and-nail against Indonesia before prevailing, 72-64.
“May Marcus Douthit tayo, sila wala. Pero dinikitan tayo,” said Reyes of the two close wins.
Reyes compared the campaign of Gilas Pilipinas when it participated in the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain where it nearly scored wins against Croatia (81-78 OT), Puerto Rico (77-73), Argentina (85-81) and Greece (82-70).
The only win of the national team came against Senegal via overtime, 81-79.
“The best analogy there is dati kapag kinakalaban natin ang Greece, Argentina… hindi sila kakabahan sa atin. Ngayon, nakaka-sigurado na ba sila sa atin? Hindi,” said Reyes.
“Ganun din sila (Thailand and Indonesia) sa atin. That’s the same situation. We’re competitive against them (World Cup opponents) because we have Andray Blatche, so hindi na din sila nakaka-sigurado sa atin.”