Sweeping the first window of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Asian Qualifiers does not give Gilas Pilipinas any advantage when it faces powerhouse Australia early next year.
Head coach Chot Reyes said the victories against Japan (77-71) and Chinese Taipei (90-83) just put them in a tie with the Australians at the top of Group B with identical 2-0 win-loss slates.
And nothing has changed as far as the chances of the Filipinos against the Oceania powerhouse, ranked No. 9 in the FIBA list.
“Nothing much. It is still in February or three months before we play Australia, so we do not have any kind of momentum that going to be built but it armed us with a lot of knowledge about ourselves hopefully things will work on and we learn,” said Reyes.
“But it also gives Australia a lot of ammunition to take care of us. We know Australia is really a very, very tough team and they are in the top 10 in the world, so it is going to be a tall order for us to compete with them at home at their own place.”
Like the Philippines, Australia swept its first two games against Taiwan (104-66) in the latter’s homecourt and Japan (82-58) in Adelaide behind the stellar games of Daniel Kickert.
And like them, the Australians play with so much energy each game.
“We have to play and prepare the best we can against Australia, so let’s see what will happen. The second window is another thing, and the first window is now over,” said Reyes.
After Australia on February 22, Gilas 5 will play against Japan on February 25 in Manila, Taiwan on June 29 in Taipei, and will host the Australians on July 2.
Reyes said the wins over Japan and Taiwan showed the PH 5 is not dependent on one player, particularly on naturalized player Andray Blatche.
“We built this team so that we are not going to be one dimensional. In the past, we are dying with the three. But we are not relying very much now on the three because we have a threat now on the post,” said Reyes.
“When we play bigger teams, we have the advantages on quickness. But if we play Japan, Korea or Taiwan, we have to find another advantage because they get to our shooters very well. So, we have to go to the post. More importantly, we have a lot of weapons.”
Fajardo made his presence felt against Taiwan by posting 17 points, eight rebounds and two blocks, his best game in a Gilas uniform, while the 6’11 Blatche struggled offensively with six points but he hauled down 14 rebounds and swatted five shots.
Reyes hopes the team will prepare early against Australia and Blatche will join them as soon as his schedule permits as the former National Basketball Association player has a commitment with his mother club in Chinese Basketball Association, although he assured his availability in the qualifiers.
“We saw the worst of Andray. But in the next window, he’ll be a better player. I hope he’ll be here early to join the team’s practice. You can’t teach everything in five days. Anyway, we would rather have Andray than not having him,” said Reyes.