The relatively easy part is over, Gilas Pilipinas now buckles down for the hard work ahead.
Having formally booked a spot in the World Cup qualifier, national coach Chot Reyes said the next step is to map out a plan towards the important events this year.
Gilas formalized its entry to the World Cup home-and-away’ tournament after ruling the Southeast Asian Basketball Association (SEABA) Championship with a final day victory over Indonesia, 97-64 Thursday night completing a dominant sweep at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“Now we can put a plan together,” said Reyes, set to meet with SBP officials and other basketball stakeholders like the PBA, the lead organization in forming the national team, to plot an ensuing course of action.
“It all depends with the discussion with the PBA and the SBP. There are a lot of schedules and other things to consider. The only thing we know is that we have a program in place.”
Putting in place a master plan won’t be a breeze like the SEABA, Reyes concedes.
“We know it’s going to be a challenge and it’s going to be difficult. We’ll try to find the best possible solution, and the best possible scenario,” he said.
Reyes steered the national team to a second place finish during the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship at the Mall of Asia Arena, qualifying the country for a return trip to the 2014 World Cup in Spain.
The last time Reyes handled the national team was during the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea where Gilas had a disappointing campaign, finishing seventh overall.
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) president Al Panlilio echoed the sentiment, baring a scheduled meeting with PBA commissioner Chito Narvasa to “iron things out.”
“We’ll discuss that, and probably with the board of governors,” said Panlilio.
With the national team winning the SEABA, the next tournament for Gilas is the FIBA Asia Cup in Lebanon this August, followed by the World Cup qualifier where FIBA has set a new ‘home and away’ format for the teams to earn points to make it to the 2019 World Cup in China.
The national team is in Group B with Japan, Taiwan and Australia, which is seeing action for the first time with Asian countries after FIBA combined the Asia and Oceania zones.
The top seven national teams after the Asian qualifying tournament will earn a berth to the World Cup together with host China, which bested the country during the bidding last year.
As for the composition of the team, Reyes said that while the current roster can develop into a strong and solid unit, it is still up to the stakeholders – primarily the PBA – to maintain the same lineup for the Lebanon tournament and the World Cup qualifiers.
“I think we have a good group; we have the potential to be a really good strong team,” said Reyes.
“We are automatically qualified to the World Cup qualifiers. Several directions are available but it has to be decided by the Gilas brain trust and other stakeholders like the PBA and the SBP. From here on in, my desire is to come out with an integrated plan because we already know the schedule all the way to the run-up to the World Championship in 2019. Now we know that we’re in, we can put a plan together.”