by Waylon Galvez
Gilas Pilipinas will start training Sunday to prepare for its crucial game against Qatar on Thursday in the sixth and final window of the FIBA World Cup qualifiers.
The national team left for Doha yesterday, and will meet with naturalized player Andray Blatche there as the former NBA campaigner went straight to Qatar from Beijing, China.
Gilas head coach Yeng Guiao said that practice sessions will be twice-a-day to give Blatche more time to be comfortable with the system.
“The next day, we’ll start practicing twice-a-day until game time,” said Guiao a day before the team’s departure.
“We have several days, so we’ll take full advantage of that. We’ll watch the videos and we’ll scout our opponents,” added Guiao.
Aside from Qatar, the national team will likewise take on Kazakhstan in Astana on Feb. 24.
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). A setback to Qatar will give Gilas a 50-50 chance to make it to this year’s FIBA World Cup in China.
The last time Gilas played was last December when it dropped two matches, first to Kazakhstan (92-88) and to Iran (78-70).
“Everybody is serious about the preparation. Everybody’s trying to make a contribution and ang tingin ko lahat naman sila ready na at this point,” said Guiao. (Everybody is serious about the preparation. Everybody’s trying to make a contribution and I think everybody’s ready at this point.)
Aside from Blatche, the other members of the Gilas pool are June Mar Fajardo, Paul Lee, Poy Erram, Mark Barroca, Jayson Castro, Scottie Thompson, Marcio Lassiter, Gabe Norwood, Troy Rosario, Japeth Aguilar, Raymond Almazan, Roger Pogoy and Thirdy Ravena – the only amatuer player in the roster.