MANILA, Philippines - Gilas coach Chot Reyes said the other day the inspiring hometown support that propelled the national team to a silver finish at the recent FIBA-Asia Championships here was critical in eliminating the “awe” factor that has been a negative element in previous international competitions.
“No more ‘awe’ factor,” said Reyes. “Now, we know we can compete with the big boys, that we can win. In the past, we would enter a tournament of that caliber with almost a defeatist attitude. But the homecrowd got us going, inspiring the guys to believe they can compete with the top teams in Asia after all. With our new mindset, it’ll be different when we compete abroad from now on.”
Even with naturalized player Marcus Douthit sitting out the finals, the Philippines fought powerhouse Iran tooth and nail until the final quarter when 7-2 Hamed Haddadi fired 10 of his 29 points in a fiery finish. Iran was up by only a point, 35-34, at the half and a buzzer-beating triple by Mahdi Kamrani ballooned the lead to nine, 62-53, starting the last period. Without Kamrani’s trey, the margin would’ve been a manageable six to open the last 10 minutes.
Reyes said he hopes to sit down with SBP president Manny V. Pangilinan and PBA commissioner Chito Salud soon to discuss options in preparing for Gilas’ campaign at the FIBA World Cup in Spain on Aug. 30-Sept. 14 next year. After the 2014 FIBA World Cup, the succeeding edition will be in 2019 and Reyes said that’s too far to think ahead. “I don’t even know if I’ll still be coaching six years from now,” he said.
But Reyes said it’s reasonable to prepare a plan, perhaps until the FIBA-Asia Championships in 2015, the regional qualifier for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The 2015 FIBA-Asia Championships will be the last regional qualifier for the Olympics. Starting 2017, FIBA will use a two-year qualifying system for the World Cup. In 2019, the top finishers of the World Cup will be awarded automatic tickets to play at the 2020 Olympics. FIBA will hold Olympic qualifying tournaments in June 2020 to fill up remaining slots for the Olympics.
“I haven’t studied the ramifications of FIBA’s new qualifying system for the 2019 World Cup and 2020 Olympics,” said Reyes. “All I know is there will be home-and-away qualifying games for the 2019 World Cup which is a welcome development since national teams are guaranteed to play some qualifiers at home. But I understand there will be six windows over a two-year period wherein these home-and-away games will be played. I think there will be a conflict with the schedule of games in the Euroleague and NBA, not to forget our PBA. That conflict has to be resolved if FIBA wants the best players to show up at the World Cup.”
Reyes said he’s aware that the next Asian Games will be played in Incheon, South Korea, on Sept. 19-Oct. 4. “If the decision is for Gilas to play in the Asian Games, I think our participation in the World Cup will be a perfect run-up for Incheon,” noted Reyes. “We’re assured to play five games during the preliminaries in Spain and our goal is to make it to the second round.”
The preliminaries will be played in four cities in Spain from Aug. 30 to Sept. 4. The first stage of the two-level knockout quarterfinals will be played on Sept. 6 and 7 in Madrid and Barcelona. The second stage of the knockout quarterfinals is scheduled on Sept. 9 and 10. The earliest Gilas will leave Spain is Sept. 5, the day after the end of the preliminaries, or two weeks before the start of the Asian Games.
Reyes said depending on the 24-nation World Cup draw in February, the Philippines might get lucky and join a bracket without the top teams. Two wins in five games in the preliminaries will guarantee a slot in the knockout quarterfinals, the second phase of the eliminations.
Beyond 2017, Reyes said it will take a lot of coordination and planning with the SBP and PBA to prepare for the next World Cup and Olympics. “Even now, it will take a lot of that to prepare for the World Cup in Spain, working around the schedule of the PBA to free up our Gilas players for practice with the national team,” said Reyes. “A lot of things can happen up to the World Cup, injuries, unforeseen developments. We’re keeping our options open in tweaking our lineup but we’re definitely bringing everyone on our silver medal team to Spain.”
Reyes said if the PBA ends next season on Aug. 13, it will leave only 10 to 12 days of preparation for the World Cup. National teams that have played together for years usually take 50 days of training before an international tournament like the FIBA-Asia Championships, it was confirmed by coaches from Kazakhstan and Qatar.