Gilas Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin advised his wards to be ready for surprises when they face Palestine at 11:45 a.m. today in their first game in the 28th FIBA Asia Championship Olympic qualifying tournament at the Changsha Social Work College Stadium in Changsha, China.
“They are a tough team in the Western Asian region that’s why we’re not underestimating them,” Baldwin told The Manila Times via overseas call from China on Tuesday. “They have a good set of players who are young and aggressive.”
Palestine, an unranked FIBA team under coach Jerry Steele, gained a slot in the FIBA Asia Championship after finishing third place behind Lebanon and Jordan in the West Asia Basketball Championship.
Among the notable players of the Palestine team are 6’8 forward Salim Sakakini, guard Jamal Abu-Shamala, Ahmed Haroon, and 6’5 guard Nicola Fadayel.
Baldwin reiterated that his team is ready to go all out even though it is competing with not so formidable opponents Palestine, Hong Kong and Kuwait in Group B.
“Our goal is to win each game and improve. We will be playing with our system and we’re not going to take them lightly,” added Baldwin. “I’m confident our players will play aggressively in defense.”
“They [Gilas players] are representing the country that’s why I’m very sure that they won’t relax.”
Naturalized Filipino Andray Blatche, a former National Basketball Association power forward who played for Washington and Brooklyn, is said to be regaining his old deadly form.
He is expected to lead the charge of Gilas players together with Jayson Castro, Ranidel De Ocampo, Gabe Norwood, Jean Marc Pingris, Paul Asi Taulava, Sonny Thoss, Dondon Honti-veros, JC Intal, Matt Ganuelas-Rosser, Calvin Abueva and Ter-rence Romeo.