Veteran national player Jayson Castro believes the tune-up games of Gilas Pilipinas beginning today would measure the national team’s offensive and defensive capability for the coming FIBA Olympic qualifying tournament in July.
“The scheduled two tune-up games against Iran is definitely important because it will show how far we’ve been through,” Talk ‘N Text’s combo guard Castro told The Manila Times in an interview. “I have no idea regarding Iran because I haven’t seen them [play]yet.”
Gilas Pilipinas will play against the Iranians in a closed door game at 3 p.m. today at Hoops Dome in Mandaluyong City. The second tune-up game between the two nations will be open to the public at 7 p.m. at the Araneta Coliseum.
“But this [tune-up game] is also important to them because they’re also playing in one of the three remaining Olympic qualifiers in Italy also next month,” Castro added. “So far, we’re doing our best in practice no matter who will be included in the 14-man line up.
The 14 players who will be selected will fly to a Europe training camp on June 10 followed by exhibition games in Greece, Turkey and Italy. Gilas will return home on June 26.
“We’ve learned a lot of things in our first few weeks of practice,” said Castro. “But we still need to train harder because the Olympic qualifier is near. I’m confident our team will get better than ever after our tune-up games against Iran and our training camp in Europe.”
Besides Castro, the Philippine team also includes the 6’11 naturalized Filipino center Andray Blatche, June Mar Fajardo, Terrence Romeo, LA Tenorio, Gabe Norwood, Japeth Aguilar, Ranidel De Ocampo, Calvin Abueva, Jeff Chan and Bobby Ray Parks Jr., among others.
“I asked coach Tab [Baldwin] these two tune-up games will serve as friendship games,” Gilas Pilipinas assistant coach Alex Compton said light heartedly.
“There’s nothing to hide from each other because we’re not in the same qualifier. We’re hosting the Manila [Olympic] qualifier. Iran will play in Turin, Italy, the other Olympic qualifier,” added Compton. “Iran, Philippines will help each other to sharpen their skills before their respective qualifiers.”
Iran is a powerhouse team in Asia because of its of 7’2 center Hamed Haddadi. Iran was the FIBA Asia champion in 2007, 2009 and 2013.