Gilas Pilipinas begins its quest to enter the World Cup as it battles Japan today at the start of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Asian Qualifiers at the Komozawa Olympic Park in Tokyo, Japan.
Game begins 7 p.m. Manila time.
Gilas head coach Chot Reyes announced the final roster for the PH’s first away game.
Naturalized player Andray Blatche led the lineup that also included Calvin Abueva, Japeth Aguilar, Jayson Castro, June Mar Fajardo, Allein Maliksi, Gabe Norwood, Kevin Alas, Roger Pogoy, Troy Rosario, Matthew Wright and Kiefer Ravena.
Scratched were Carl Bryan Cruz, Mac Belo and center Raymond Almazan although the three can be tapped for the PH 5’s home game against Taiwan on November 27 at the Araneta Coliseum.
“We finally decided on the 12-man roster but this line-up can be changed in the next game. It could be different against Taiwan. I spoke with them (Cruz, Belo and Almazan) earlier and they took the decision professionally,” said Reyes in a Facebook live session.
“Our commitment to Gilas will never change. We will always support the national team,” said Belo.
The new format will allow teams to field a different lineup of players every game as long as they are included in the 23-man pool submitted to FIBA.
Gilas is ranked higher (No. 30) than Japan (No. 50) but Reyes expects a tough encounter against the Japanese, who will be mentored by Julio Lamas, the former Argentinian national head coach.
Japan will also parade another naturalized player in Iran Brown, who had a brief stint with San Miguel Beer in the Philippine Basketball Association in 2011.
Former National Basketball Association (NBA) G-League player Yuki Togashi, who has seen action with the Texas Legends in 2015, is in the list with veterans Kosuke and Joji Takeuchi, Makoto Hiejima and Ryusei Shinoyama.
Despite the limited practice time, Castro is confident of their first game.
“Our condition is already there and Andray (Blatche) is picking up so fast since he’s an NBA player. His condition also looks good. He’s dunking during training. We also had three tune-up games,” Castro told The Manila Times before the team’s departure last Tuesday.