Despite the Philippines dropping to No. 30 in the latest International Basketball Federation (FIBA) rankings, Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes said he is not thinking about it too much.
Reyes is focusing more on how to assemble the best possible team for the 2017 FIBA Asian Qualifiers that begins November 24.
The Philippine team finished seventh in the last FIBA Asia Cup in Beirut, Lebanon hence its drop from 27th to 30th in the rankings. The nationals are presently No. 5 in Asia behind Australia, Iran, China and New Zealand.
“Well, it is a lot better than we were before, but like what I said it has nothing to do with how we play on the court. It is just a gauge of the progress of how far we’ve gone,” Reyes told reporters in an interview on Thursday during the launch of the collaboration between TV5 and ESPN at the Snaps Bar in Sofitel Hotel.
“What’s the rank of China? We beat them [in the last FIBA Asia Cup]. So, it only means teams with lower ranks can also beat us. In the end, it doesn’t hold much value,” he added.
Gilas Pilipinas will start an early build-up starting November 3 for the FIBA Asian Qualifiers for the 2019 World Cup in China, although Reyes admitted that they are still determining the new composition of the national pool because some of the players they are eyeing in the Philippine Basketball Association were traded to different teams.
“We are focusing on the players that we have right now and assemble the best possible team for the next month tournament,” said Reyes.
The country is in Bracket B together with Australia, Japan and Taiwan. The FIBA home-and-away qualifiers will start on November 24 with Gilas playing Japan in Tokyo and November 27 against Taiwan at the Araneta Coliseum.
Philippines will also play on February 22 against Australia and February 25 versus Japan. Gilas will also face Taiwan on June 29 and Australia on July 2.
Reyes said Australia, the defending FIBA Asia Cup champion, is definitely the strongest team in the bracket.
“When you talk about Australia, very honestly, I don’t know how we can beat Australia. Remember in the last FIBA Asia Championship, Australia beat Iran with Hamed Haddadi by 30 points so how can beat them?” he said. “It is “suntok sa buwan to the highest degree.” It is what it is.”
“We just have to focus on Japan and Taiwan. If you get four wins in the qualifiers, then you can go to top three.”
Gilas Pilipinas can only choose one naturalized player between Andre Blatche and Filipino-German Christian Standhardinger for the upcoming qualifiers.
Reyes also mentioned the naturalization process of 7’1 Isaiah Austin, which is expected to take time as it must pass the Congress and get the signature of the President of the country.
Meanwhile, TV5 network Inc. and ESPN announced the long-term collaboration to introduce a new brand, which is the ESPN 5.
ESPN 5 and the SportsCenter Philippine Edition will air on TV5’s free-to-air television channels TV5 and Aksyon 41.
“We will televise Philippine Volleyball League and Philippine Super Liga on prime time. At the same time, the games of the Philippine Basketball Association since we still have two more years left in our contract,” said Reyes, noting that Game 1 of the PBA finals Governors’ Cup on Friday in Lucena is going to be televised live.
ESPN 5 will also air all FIBA competitions, US College basketball, National Football League, ESPN’s Big Fights and IndyCar Racing, among others.
JOSEF T. RAMOS