Gilas to run the gauntlet

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ROMY P. MARIÑAS

ROMY P. MARIÑAS

Cramming won’t cut it for the Gilas team to the FIBA Asia Championships in China next month.

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While its rivals have been reported to be deep in training months before the qualifiers (September 23-October 3) in Changsha, the Philippine national team was officially formed only on Monday this week.

The so-called 16-man Gilas pool is a mixed bag of the obviously young (Terrence Romeo, at 23 the baby) and the admittedly old (Asi Taulava, at 42 the oldest).

It will take on competitors much younger, way taller and presumably more committed to flag and country than others who have seemed to put a price tag on representing Team Philippines.

If Coach Tab Baldwin thinks that he can play magician to whip into shape a ragtag quintet in just about 50 days, he has got another think coming.

Well, with some local basketball honcho having said the New Zealander just has to play the cards he had been “dealt with,” maybe he can.

Many, many moons ago and before the PBA came to town, it was a badge of honor—not only in basketball but also in other sports for that matter—for Filipino athletes to be even considered, not necessarily chosen, for the country’s team to the Asian Games or the Olympic Games.

Being “injured” was in the vocabulary of these sportsmen and sportswomen of yesteryear because tearing a muscle or getting it in the shin, arguably, came with the territory.

Today, it is not, with basketball stars especially looking forward to lucrative careers in the first professional cage league in Asia and, therefore, would not risk anything more than “welcoming” an errant elbow from other players.

Why, some of them get to be movie stars, product endorsers, poster boys, etc. and it would seem foolish of them to help the Philippines, at this time, to bag a gold medal in Changsa.

Nothing less than first place will assure Gilas the only automatic slot at the Rio Olympics in 2016, otherwise it would have to make it to Brazil by battling it out in other qualifiers or give it a rest and hope and pray to be picked as a wild card.

Next month’s qualifiers will find Gilas members in hostile territory, unlike when they placed second to Iran in the fight for spots in last year’s world championships.

The Chinese, more than one billion of them, would be in full force, theoretically—as well as supporters of the other teams—to help their team bag the one and only Rio vacancy.

Meanwhile, in the run-up to Changsa, they also presumably want China to nail the one and only slot in Brazil by beating the Philippines for the right to host the FIBA World Cup in 2019.

Basketball’s governing body is expected to announce on Friday in Tokyo the winning host between Manila and Beijing for the Cup.

We hope that the FIBA bosses would not take it against the Philippines the country’s apparently last-ditch efforts to organize Team Philippines for Changsa and that they had not been given the impression that Manila is not ready for the hosting job.

Good luck, to both Gilas and the Manuel V. Pangilinan-led Philippine bidders.

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