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Taller, versatile Gilas emerge

‘I think they are playing with great chemistry and that is the effect of the preparations that they have done.’

A taller, versatile Gilas Pilipinas showed up and beat Magnolia in a friendly match on Friday at the Meralco Gym in Pasig City.

Hotshots head coach Chito Victolero liked the improvement of Gilas Pilipinas during their 77-93 loss in a tuneup match in preparation for the FIBA Basketball World Cup from 25 August to 10 September.

He said the national cagers have displayed great chemistry while using their size to their advantage despite the absence of 7-foot-3 slotman Kai Sotto and National Basketball Association player Jordan Clarkson.

“I think they are playing with great chemistry and that is the effect of the preparations that they have done. They’re moving so well as a team, they’re communicating better on defense and they run their plays smoothly,” Victolero told Daily Tribune.

“They have the size and they have shooters, too. But more than that, they’re versatile enough where they can switch from having a bigger line up to playing small ball.”

He said he expects Gilas to improve in the coming weeks, especially when Sotto and Clarkson finally step on board.

“I think they will be even better in the next three weeks going to the World Cup, especially when Jordan Clarkson and Kai Sotto join the team,” he said.

During their friendly match, Gilas played all-Filipino as naturalized player Justin Brownlee didn’t see action due to an injured foot while Ange Koame is already with the Rain or Shine team that is preparing for the William Jones Cup.

Still, Gilas used the advantage they gained on skill set and the cohesion that they developed from their more than a month of training, including the two-week camp in Estonia and Lithuania where they faced some collegiate and club teams in Europe.

Gilas assistant coach Jong Uichico said they will have a better evaluation of the players after they compete in the four-nation pocket tournament in Guangdong, China from 2 to 6 August.

“We will know better in China,” Uichico, whose team will leave for China on 1 August, said.

Victolero said their tuneup with Gilas is a fitting way to close out their preseason campaign.

The Hotshots are coming off an 11-game sweep of the Philippine Basketball Association On Tour preseason tournament, but getting a good test before the break gave them a better opportunity of seeing where they are right now as a team.

It also allowed them to expose some of the role players, whom they consider to play valuable roles for the squad once the season starts in October.

“Before, we were having a difficult time each time Paul Lee or Mark Barroca or Ian Sangalang get hurt, but now, we are building the confidence of the other young players like Jed Mendoza, James Laput, Aris Dionisio and Joseph Eriobu,” Victolero said.

“It’s a great opportunity to play against a very strong team in Gilas.”

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