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FOR FLAG, COUNTRY — ‘New Gilas’ formed out of unity, teamwork

After Gilas Pilipinas’ forgettable performance in the FIBA Basketball World Cup, expectations are high on the Filipino cagers.

LA Tenorio is tipped to provide leadership and stability to Gilas Pilipinas in the 19th Asian Games. | DAILY TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO

It’s going to be a battle for pride and glory when Gilas Pilipinas competes in the men’s basketball event of the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou starting 26 September.

Philippine Basketball Association chairman Ricky Vargas said the two giant conglomerates — the San Miguel Corporation and the Manny V. Pangilinan Group — have set aside their corporate rivalry just to assemble a team that will bring home the country’s first Asian Games medal since 1998.

Although the MVP Group is running the affairs of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, SMC president Ramon Ang extended support as he instructed Tim Cone of Barangay Ginebra San Miguel to spearhead the formation of the team that aims to redeem the country’s shattered pride.

It was also Ang who organized the meeting among Vargas, SBP president Al Panlilio, PBA commissioner Willie Marcial, PBA vice chairman Bobby Rosales and SMC sports director Alfrancis Chua last Tuesday to formalize their support behind the formation of the “new Gilas” squad.

Aside from Cone, Chua will serve as team manager while Marcial will be his deputy with Ginebra star LA Tenorio, Ginebra assistant coach Richard del Rosario, Gilas assistant coach Jong Uichico and Gilas Youth mentor Josh Reyes as assistant coaches.

“We needed to have a board meeting because we knew that if we’re going to commit to the Asian Games, it’s a ‘pass-or-fail’ for the PBA there. We have to look at a lot of risks because this particular Gilas team is a PBA team coached by a PBA coach while the governor of Ginebra and the commissioner of the PBA are sitting on the bench,” Vargas, the governor of TNT Tropang Giga, said.

“The PBA is all-in. When the board discussed it, we were single-minded about it. If we will not move, who will do it? The PBA has never been afraid to fail.”

After Gilas Pilipinas’ forgettable performance in the FIBA Basketball World Cup, expectations are high on the Filipino cagers.

In the Asian Games, they are bracketed in Group C together with Bahrain, Thailand and Jordan with the top team in the preliminaries advancing to the quarterfinals while the second and third placers will have to go through a knockout match to determine who will make it to the Last Eight.

Despite the absence of Japan-based stars like Dwight Ramos, Thirdy and Kiefer Ravena, Ray Parks, Kai Sotto and AJ Edu, Cone is still expected to come up with a solid team.

Naturalized player Justin Brownlee is set to suit up together with Scottie Thompson, Roger Pogoy, June Mar Fajardo, CJ Perez, Japeth Aguilar, Chris Newsome, Calvin Oftana and Ange Kouame.

Brandon Ganuelas-Rosser and Jamie Malonzo are doubtful, but they can be easily replaced with quality talents from the PBA.

Chua admitted that they are running out of time but they are working hard to emerge victorious despite the massive odds stacked against them.

“Two days after the World Cup, we set a meeting for the national team. We agreed that this is going to be hard, especially for Tim because of the time and the player selection. But we are positive about this,” Chua said.

“I’m thanking the PBA and the governors who are working hand-in-hand. We need you here. It’s not the World Cup but we’re bringing up the flag.”

Chua said there will be an extra incentive for SMC players who will be selected.

“What we did was our players from Ginebra, San Miguel and Magnolia, whoever will be picked, we’re going to give them 10 days off after the Asian Games despite the PBA opening drawing near,” Chua said.

“They can do whatever they want and they can go wherever they want in exchange for the sacrifice they will make for the Asian Games.”

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