Gilas Pilipinas assistant coach Jong Uichico expects the Southeast Asia (SEA) rivals to go all out in dethroning the Philippines in the men’s basketball competition of the 29th SEA Games on August 19 to 30 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Uichico said while most of SEA nations are sending their best teams in the biennial competition, the country is a mixture of amateur of professional cagers as they can’t afford to form a strong squad due to conflict with the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Asia Cup.
“Our opponents, which are the A teams or the elite teams from their respective countries, are getting better day by day. On our part, we are a young team. We have to focus on our strength, our brand of basketball, which is our shooting prowess, speed and our defense,” Uichico told The Manila Times on Sunday.
“For sure, they will play all-out to beat us because we have been winning the Southeast Asian Games for the past so many years, including the SEABA (Southeast Asia Basketball Association),” he added.
The many-time Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) champion mentor admitted some SEA nations are getting better and the young core of Gilas5 will be tested heavily by the rest of the field.
He mentioned Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam as the nations that could give the Filipino dribblers a run for their money in the gold-medal chase.
“Thailand is the strongest team so far in the SEA Games line-up, but we cannot take the other teams for granted because they are also practicing,” said Uichico, who will call shots for the PH 5 as Gilas head coach Chot Reyes will be guiding the other national team in the FIBA Asia Cup set on August 8 to 20 in Lebanon.
The Philippines is a 17-time champion in SEA Games and has won the gold medal for the 11 straight time.
Uichico said the team has yet to practice in full since returning from Jones Cup in Taiwan where Gilas finished fourth in the competition.
“I’m hoping we have a better attendance in practice this coming week. We’re not complete most of the time and we only have 20 days left before SEA Games. We only have six players each practicing for the FIBA Asia Cup and the SEA Games for the past few days,” explained Uichico.
Named to the SEA Games roster are Chris Standhardinger, Carl Bryan Cruz, Bobby Ray Parks, Kiefer Ravena, Kobe Paras, Troy Rosario, Baser Amer, Mike Tolomia, Kevin Ferrer, Von Pessumal, Almond Vosotros and Raymar Jose.
Uichico will be assisted by Josh Reyes and Jimmy Alapag.
Standhardinger and Cruz will miss the first game in SEA Games against Thailand on August 20 as they see action in the latter part of the FIBA Asia Cup.
JOSEF T. RAMOS