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Gilas aim to defend turf, make Olympics

Gilas Pilipinas will bank on its sixth man to defend the turf in the coming FIBA World Cup and become the best Asian team to qualify for the Olympics. (Photo by Rey Joble)

The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas reiterated the objectives of Gilas Pilipinas when it campaigns in the FIBA Basketball World Cup that will be held in Manila from 25 August to 10 September.

SBP president Al Panlilio stressed that he told the Filipino dribblers to play with pride in order for them to defend their turf and clinch a spot in the Paris Olympics next year.

The Philippines is bracketed in Group A with Italy, Angola and the Dominican Republic. Should they advance to the second round, they will face China in a match where the Olympic slot that is reserved for the best Asian team will be at stake.

“My wish is to get to the second round,” Panlilio told Daily Tribune in a Viber message.

“It also keeps alive our desire to make it to the Olympics, so our battle cry is to defend the home turf.”

But the battle will not be easy.

Former Gilas head coach Yeng Guiao stressed that although Angola is beatable, the Italians will be tough nuts to crack with the presence of veteran international campaigners.

Guiao, however, believes that Gilas could pull off an upset of the Dominican Republic despite the presence of three National Basketball Association players.

Italy will be bannered by Simone Fontecchio, Niccolo Melli, Achille Polonara and Luigi Datome while the Dominican Republic has Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Chris Duarte of the Sacramento Kings and Al Horford of the Boston Celtics in its extended roster.

“I think we can take on Angola and go head-to-head with them,” said Guiao, who steered Gilas in the World Cup in 2019 but failed to win a single game.

“It would be more ambitious to beat Italy, but we can pull off an upset of the Dominican Republic despite the presence of its three players from the National Basketball Association.”

In 2019, Guiao’s Gilas squad received a sound beating from the Italians bannered by Datome, Amedeo Dela Valle, and Danilo Gallinari, 108-62.

Gilas pushed Angola to the limit before losing in overtime, 81-84.

A win over Angola and an upset of the Dominican Republic will put Gilas in a much better position of advancing to the next round and keep their hopes of becoming the best Asian team alive.

Guiao said Gilas’ current set up is much better with Jordan Clarkson and Kai Sotto at the helm.

“With Jordan and Kai in the roster, and enough time to prepare, we can put up the best Gilas team ever assembled,” Guiao said.

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