Gilas coach wary of Seaba Championships rivals

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Gilas Pilipinas head coach Chot Reyes on Tuesday said his wards are brac-ing for a tough challenge in the coming Southeast Asian Basketball Association (Seaba) Championships for Men slated on May 12 to 18 at the Araneta Coliseum.

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The long-time national coach said Southeast Asian countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore are sending their best team in the tournament and will be reinforced by naturalized players.

Andre Blatche of Gilas Pilipinas drives on Semih Erden of Turkey during a friendly game at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City on July 2, 2016. PHOTO BY RUSSELL PALMA

“Thailand has three naturalized players although they can only submit one to FIBA (International Basketball Federation) for their final 12 in Seaba. Indonesia started its practice earlier than us,” said Reyes in Tuesday’s Seaba. Championships news conference at the Holiday Inn Galleria in Ortigas, Pasig City.

“Even Singapore has Singapore-Americans in their line-up. We cannot take these teams for granted now,” added Reyes, who will use an “overkill approach” in the tournament.

In the previous editions of the Seaba. tournament, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) used to send the amateur or the cadets squad in the said tournament.

But Reyes is aware of the importance of topping this year’s Seaba. tourney as only the champion team will advance to the FIBA Asia Cup in Beirut, Lebanon in August.

“We’ll go for overkill because we can’t afford to make any mistake there. We need to get the title to qualify for the FIBA Asia Cup,” said Reyes.

Right now, his 25-man pool is practicing three times a week and will go full blast with their training after naming the final 12 roster on April 28 shortly after the All-Star break of the Philippine Basketball Association in Lucena City.

Gilas Pilipinas team manager Butch Antonio said the SBP and the camp of naturalized player Andray Blatche have agreed on the terms of the latter’s SEABA stint.

“Andray (Blatche) just went back to the US after leading his team Xinjiang Flying Tigers to the Chinese Basketball Association championship,” Antonio said. “Andray has already committed that he will be playing with us. We’re just fixing the date of his arrival next month.”

The other participating nations are Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The Philippine team will also field a team in the fourth Seaba. Under-16 championship, which is slated on May 14 to 18.

Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand comprised the U-16 tournament.

Besides Reyes and Antonio, SBP President Al Panlilio, SBP Executive Director Sonny Barrios, Deputy Executive Director Bernie Atienza and Holiday Inn’s General Manager Guarav Rai attended the event. Gilas players Calvin Abueva, Kevin Ferrer and Raymond Almazan were also present.

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