After ruling the SEABA Championship anew, the real test begins for the Philippine national men’s basketball team.
In August, Gilas Pilipinas will compete in the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup which will now include Australia and New Zealand.
After that, the Filipinos will kick off their FIBA World Cup qualifiers campaign in November, facing Australia, Japan and Chinese Taipei in a home-and-away format that will run until next year.
But who will suit up in those competitions? Nothing is concrete yet, according to Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes.
“It all depends on the discussions with the PBA Board, with the SBP, with the other stakeholders on what the plan is going to be,” he said.
“Purposely, we didn’t put a concrete plan in place until we win this first. So I said, ‘Let’s win this first’ and now that we’re going to the World Cup qualifying tournaments, now we can sit down and put the plan together.”
Reyes sees a lot of challenges in forming a team for those games, especially the World Cup qualifiers which will be played during six scheduled windows.
“We all know it’s not going to be as simple as that. Obviously, there are a lot of schedules, there are a lot of things to consider. Hindi ko pa alam. The only thing we know is that we have a cadet program in place, but other than that, it all depends on the discussion and the meetings that are going to happen after tonight,” Reyes said.
“It’s not only us who is battling that. The same is true with the US Basketball, which already said that the D-League is going, not the NBA players. I know that Europe has the same problem and all the other countries all over the world have the same problems. I understand China has already put up two national teams. We just have to be very creative and figure out the best way.”
But the good thing is Reyes and the Gilas Pilipinas brass can now plan their strategy for the upcoming important competitions.
“From here on in, my desire is to come up with an integrated plan. Because we already now basically the schedule all the way to the run up to the World Cup in 2019. Now that we know we’re in and now we know the schedule, we can put a plan together. Commissioner Chito Narvasa has been with us every step of the way, attended two or three practices. He has been to every ball game. He wants to tell us that he’s behind the program, behind the team. It remains to be seen,” he said.
One of the national team’s top concerns in the grueling FIBA calendar is the availability of naturalized player Andray Blatche.
Because he’s under contract in the Chinese league, Blatche is expected to miss some of Gilas Pilipinas’ games in the World Cup qualifiers–a huge setback for the team given the level of competition it will face.
“We purposely kept the discussions with Andray for the SEABA first kasi nga kung hindi natin maipanalo ito, wala tayong pag-uusapan,” Reyes said.
“Now that we’ve gotten this, we have to sit down and know the schedule because he also a tournament, obligations in China. I really don’t know kung ano mangyayari. If you noticed China, they’ve built two national teams. That’s really purposely for the window, the World Qualifying schedule. We really don’t know how it’s going to affect Andray’s schedule.”
Gilas Pilipinas currently has a naturalization candidate in Greg Smith, but it will still take a long time before he gets his Filipino citizenship and becomes eligible for the squad.
“It’s a timing issue. I don’t think we can get it done in five or six months,” Reyes said.