Even without naturalized player Andray Blatche, Gilas Pilipinas national coach Chot Reyes remained confident of the country’s chances against Japan at the start of the International Basketball Association (FIBA) Asian Qualifiers next week.
Reyes said even an all Filipino crew can get the job done for Gilas, which plays against Japan on November 24 (November 25 in Manila).
“I think we have a very good chance against Japan and I think we have a very good chance against Taiwan [too],” said Reyes during the team’s send off organized by chief backer Chooks-To-Go on Saturday at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Ortigas, Pasig City.
Also present were players Kiefer Ravena, Troy Rosario, Gabe Norwood, Jayson Castro, Roger Pogoy, Raymond Almazan, Allein Maliksi, Mac Belo, Kevin Alas, Carl Bryan Cruz, Matthew Wright, Japeth Aguilar and June Mar Fajardo.
But Reyes knew the game would be tough as it will be played at the Komazawa Olympic Park in Tokyo and the cold weather could also play a factor.
“It’s really going to boil down to the main difficulty in Japan because of the weather. It’s going to be cold there and they have the advantage of familiarity and crowd support so those are the things that we need to contend with,” added Reyes, whose 16-man pool will be leaving on November 21 for Japan.
“They (Japanese) are a very good team with a very good coach. I really respect coach Julio Llamas. They are quick, they shoot well, they have good naturalized player (Ira Brown) that they love playing with that’s why I think we would have a very, very difficult time playing against Japan.”
Reyes said that they have the home court advantage vs Taiwan and the team is ready to play all-Filipino if Blatche will not show up.
“Like I said, I will prepare them to play all-Filipino. We don’t know if he (Blatche) is coming until he’s here or if he is in shape,” said Reyes, adding that they still need to work on their defense.
“Against NLEX tune-up earlier, we still had problems stopping them even without Asi (Taulava), (Rabeh) Al-Hussaini and Larry Fonacier so our defense right now is really a concern.”
Gilas lost to Alab (76-81) a week ago before beating Rain or Shine (95-76) in a fight-marred game last Thursday and NLEX (95-87) on Saturday.
Reyes also explained that scoring guard Terrence Romeo is nursing a knee contusion and still doubtful to suit up versus Japan.
“We are still not giving up on Terrence and we still hope that he can make the line-up. He’s in the 16-man pool and everybody has a chance to be in the final 12.”
The Philippines is grouped with Australia, Japan and Taiwan in Bracket B in the qualifiers. Gilas 5 will then face next Taiwan on November 27 at the Araneta Coliseum.
After Japan and Taiwan, the Philippines will meet Australia on February 22 next year and February 25 against Japan. The Philippines will play against Taiwan on June 29 and July 2 against Australia.