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Gilas faces acid test vs Thais; Uichico cries foul

KUALA LUMPUR – Jong Uichico said the worst nightmare of every basketball coach is to join a tournament you expect to win.

Uichico had his second cup of coffee at the breakfast table Saturday. He was alone. The players were out of sight. He walked back and forth, looking for the line-up of the Thailand basketball team they will be facing Sunday.

Practice is set at 1 p.m. and Uichico was looking for the delegation’s psychologist.

Since it has been decided that the players would forego the opening ceremonies in the evening, Uichico wanted something worthwhile for the players to do during their spare time.

Dr. Rey Canlas may have something to say to keep the players focused and relaxed at the job at hand.

There’s no way this team can lose in men’s basketball in the Southeast Asian Games.

And Uichico knows that.

During the semifinals two years ago in Singapore, Uichico sat on pins and needles as Thailand led most of the way until the Filipinos pulled through in the end, 80-75.

Coincidentally, the Filipinos’ first opponent is Thailand on Sunday at 9:30 p.m.

The Philippines is grouped with Thailand, Malaysia and Myanmar. The other group is made up of Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Singapore.

The top two teams advance into the crossover semifinals.

The Gilas Cadet team has only nine days to practice for the Games, but Uichico is not about to make it as an excuse to perform poorly.

“Our mindset is to work hard with what we have,” said Uichico.

Fil-German Christian Standhardinger is expected to join the team on Saturday evening. He left the Gilas squad in Lebanon and arrived in Manila Friday.

His addition will provide the size and the energy the team needs.

Uichico said South Korea’s manhandling of Gilas Pilipinas in Lebanon has no effect on the team’s morale.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s a non-issue,” he said.

However, Uichico said it is unfair to criticize Gilas Pilipinas for one bad loss.

“Nobody gave Gilas the slightest chance in Lebanon, but they won three games. When they lost to Korea, you hear a lot of things. That’s unfair,” said the normally cool Uichico.

Uichico said the Gilas program is geared toward the Olympics and FIBA World.

“We can’t win every tournament that we participate in,” he said.

Except for the SEA Games.