Gilas ‘serious, focused’ as showdown with France nears
MANILA, Philippines – The looming prospect of facing a team like France, ranked 5th in the world, and the determination to achieve a tall task of reaching the Rio Olympics cast an earnest mood over Gilas Pilipinas just under two days before tip-off of the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament here.
(READ: Your guide to the FIBA OQT in Manila)
“Serious. Focused,” head coach Tab Baldwin described the team’s mood in a short interview after viewing Sunday, July 3. “We’re looking at France in the video, we’re looking at France on the court and so all of our attention was on how do we counter the strength of the team and the systems that they run.”
The Philippine national men’s basketball team is zeroed in on studying game plan and practicing executions ahead of the highly anticipated clash that has injected a mix of tension and excitement among Filipino fans. (RELATED: Gilas Pilipinas, I choose you!)
Swingman and Gilas mainstay Gabe Norwood said his teammates appear calm with the pressure not quite sinking in yet as they are locked in on preparations.
“Until it really gets started it’s the same,” he said, as Gilas members filed out of the viewing room looking both serene and cheerful at the same time. “Right now we’re just focused on getting our game plan together.”
Gilas pulled in the cadets plus Meralco Bolts swingman Jared Dillinger for Sunday night’s practice, where they served as the Tony Parker-led French team Gilas had to thwart. The extra bodies, which included Kevin Ferrer, Kiefer Ravena, and Mo Tautuaa, were tasked to simulate France’s plays.
(READ: France, Parker wary of Gilas' outside shooting)
“We used to call it taxi squad in the States to learn some of France’s stuff to try and execute them,” Baldwin explained.
“It takes a little bit of the energy burden off of our team and it gives us a different group of guys to face. We can talk about the strengths to the players. We appreciate the guys coming in, it’s important to help us out. Everybody’s on board.” (RELATED: France's Nicolas Batum to miss game vs Gilas)
Gilas will have two practices Monday, July 4 a day before the first game Tuesday, July 5 at 9 pm.
After France, Gilas takes on New Zealand with the top two teams of their group moving on to the next round. The winner of the 6-nation tilt will qualify for the Olympics.
The Philippines has not been to the Olympic basketball tournament since 1972. – Rappler.com