So far, so good.
Gilas head coach Chot Reyes likes the progress that Gilas Pilipinas has been showing following its 84-74 victory in a friendly match against the Ukrainian U20 squad at the Zalgiris Arena in Kaunas, Lithuania on Sunday night (Manila time).
Reyes said Gilas are slowly getting physically fit as they approach the crucial stretch of their preparation for the FIBA Basketball World Cup that the country will host from 25 August to 10 September.
“Little by little, we see their legs coming back and, for me, that’s the fundamental of all fundamentals — conditioning and stamina,” Reyes said in an interview.
“That was the plan, that’s why we’re doing the work and the loading and lifting to get them to that level. But, we’re still a long way off. As I said, we are not programmed to be at the top level at this point. We’re still part of the learning process.”
Against the Ukrainians, Gilas displayed fresher legs as they led in fastbreak points, 13-4, while lording over the rebounding department, 30-26.
Scottie Thompson and AJ Edu didn’t play but naturalized player Justin Brownlee stepped up, posting 21 points on an impressive 8-of-13 field goal shooting while CJ Perez finished with 14 markers on 6-of-9 shooting.
It was the second victory of the Filipinos in their European training following a 71-81 setback to the Estonian U21 team last 28 June and 85-89 setback to Finland on 29 June.
Reyes said they are on track with their progression and hearing the stories from the Ukrainian team will help them motivate as they continue their preparations for the prestigious 32-nation tournament.
“I think the four games we played have delivered what we expected: For us to learn about each other, to learn what we need to work on and get us into competitive shape while playing against quality competition,” Reyes said.
The longtime Gilas mentor stressed that he wants his wards to be grateful, especially after hearing the stories of Ukrainian stalwart Leo Koshevatsky, whose family has been affected by the ongoing war with Russia.
“I thought it was important to get the perspective of a member of another team, most especially a team going through extreme adversity. We all know what’s going on in Ukraine at the moment.”
“For me, a very important part of coping with adversity is gratitude, having an appreciation of what you have. For them to find out firsthand from Leo, the player from Ukraine, what they are going through, I think it’s important. I think it’s very, very important.”