Defending champion Philippines led Group A after the draw in the men’s basketball competition of the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia next month.
The 17-time champion Filipino dribblers are joined by host Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar in Group A, while Group B is composed of silver medalist Indonesia, Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.
Timor-Leste, which competed in the last edition of this biennial meet in Singapore, opted not join the competition, which will run from August 20 to 26 at the MABA Stadium in Kuala Lumpur.
The Philippines is tipped to repeat this year despite sending a relatively young squad.
Head coach Chot Reyes named Mike Tolomia, Baser Amer, Kiefer Ravena, Almond Vosotros, Bobby Ray Parks, Jr., Von Pessumal, Kevin Ferrer, Kobe Paras, Raymar Jose, Troy Rosario and Filipino-German Christian Standhardinger to the tournament.
The 28-year old Standhardinger, who plays professional basketball in Germany, has been declared as the team’s naturalized player as the six-foot-eight forward secured his Philippine passport after the age of 16.
In the 2015 SEA Games, the Philippines also fielded in a naturalized player in Marcus Douthit.
Though Gilas 5 remains the top favorite to win the gold medal, the other Southeast Asian nations have been improving tremendously as what they had showed in the Southeast Asia Basketball Association Championship, which the country hosted last May.
Malaysia remains the lone country to win the SEA Games gold medal in men’s basketball outside the Philippines. The Malaysians shocked the Filipinos in 1989 edition also held in Kuala Lumpur.
Before SEA Games, the squad will see action this week in the annual William R. Jones Cup invitational tournament in Taipei.
The squad will play nine games in nine days and will have Mike Myers as its import.
Gilas will play a club team from Canada on July 15, Chinese Taipei A on July 16, Chinese Taipei B on July 17, Japan on July 18, South Korea on July 19, Iraq on July 20, a selection team from Lithuania on July 21, India on July 22 and Iran on July 23.