Gilas Pilipinas left for Japan on Tuesday without one of its top scorers Terrence Romeo but Filipino-Canadian Matthew Wright is confident that they can get the job done in the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Asian Qualifiers even without the GlobalPort scoring dynamo.
Romeo skipped the trip due to a knee contusion and head coach Chot Reyes has to find ways to fill in the gap as Gilas 5 takes on Japan on Friday at the Komazawa Olympic Park in Tokyo.
“Just because he (Romeo) is not playing, it doesn’t mean that we are going to stop of what we are doing. We have to continue and nothing can stop us,” Wright told The Manila Times in an interview. “People will step up in Romeo’s absence.”
Wright is one of the guards who are expected to share the scoring load along with Jayson Castro although Reyes has yet to name his final 12 for the Japan match.
Romeo averaged 17.8 points and 3.0 assists in Gilas 5’ campaign in the Asian Cup in Beirut, Lebanon and his absence left a huge hole in the team’s offense.
“I think we are 100 percent ready. Now that we have Dray (Andray Blatche) back and our scouting on Japan, we feel comfortable and confident of our abilities, and we like our chances,” added Wright, who averaged 12.7 points in Lebanon.
Wright, Castro, Roger Pogoy, Kevin Alas and Kiefer Ravena are fighting for spots in the final lineup along with Gabe Norwood, Allein Maliksi, Mac Belo, Calvin Abueva, Troy Rosario, June Mar Fajardo, Japeth Aguilar and Carl Bryan Cruz.
One of the spots is already reserved for Blatche, who arrived late in Gilas’ training camp.
After Japan, the Filipinos will meet Taiwan on November 27 at home at the Araneta Coliseum.
And the goal is to sweep the two games before meeting powerhouse Australia on February 22 next year.
“That (sweep the Japan and Taiwan games) is the goal and there’s no reason to think not. We beat those teams in the past. We are completely confident and the fans have nothing to worry about it,” said Wright.
The incoming Phoenix guard sophomore added all the players are ready to face the challenge regardless who will be included in the final roster.
“It is for the country. It is more than me, bigger than any PBA team and any league. This is for the entire country and for the Filipinos abroad. Everybody is proud to represent the country,” said Wright.
The second round of the home-and-away qualifiers will have Gilas facing Japan on February 25, Taiwan on June 29 and the Australians on July 2 next year.