by Waylon Galvez
On a scale of 1 to 10, Gilas Pilipinas coach Yeng Guiao gives the national team an eight but that number can still go up by the time the Filipinos play two crucial games in the sixth and last qualifying window for this year’s FIBA World Cup in China.
The national team leaves for Qatar today (Saturday) to face the home team on Thursday in Doha, and then it takes on Kazakhstan in Astana on February 24.
“Siguro nasa 8 na kami. By the time we play, we should be around close to 9, 9 something,” said Guiao after the tune up game of Gilas against the Meralco Bolts at the Meralco gym in Quezon City.
“I don’t think we can be really at a hundred percent dahil kulang naman talaga yung preparation time. But if we make 90 percent, we’ll be okay. That’s good enough for us to win games.”
“At least even without Andray Blatche we’ve seen that the guys are blending well. We played good defense today. We’re hoping we can still improve our defense and be able to translate or apply the things that we’ve practiced in the window, game against Qatar and Kazakhstan,” added Guiao.
Gilas won 100-82 against the Boolts, the team’s lone tune up game to prepare for the final window of the World Cup qualifiers.
The national team is in a must win situation since it is in fourth place with a 5-5 record in Group F behind Australia (9-1), Iran (7-3) and Japan (6-4).
The last time Gilas played last December, it dropped two matches here on home soil, first to Kazakhstan (92-88) and to Iran (78-70).
One thing going for the Philippines in its games against Qatar and Kazakhstan is the presence of naturalized player Andray Blatche, who attended practice sessions of the national team from Feb. 2 to 10 before he returned to China to play for his mother team Tianjin Golden Lions.