By JONAS TERRADO
Team manager Butch Antonio believes Gilas Pilipinas will be carrying a bigger target as compared in the past in its task to extend the country’s dominance in the men’s basketball competitions of the Southeast Asian Games.
Gilas is favored to win a 14th consecutive gold and 19th overall in next month’s biennial meet in Hanoi, Vietnam, but Antonio said in the Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum that rival countries are out to give the squad a run for its money.
“Palaki ng palaki ang bullseye sa atin, front and back na,” Antonio said in the weekly online forum held Tuesday, April 26.
Teams like Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia have been making big preparations in the past weeks in a bid to end the Philippines’ long cage dominance in the region.
But despite the worries, Antonio feels that Gilas can still live up to expectations once action starts in the Vietnamese capital on May 16.
“Seriously, I think we would still be the — ito di ako nagyayabang — I think we will still be the favorites,” he said. “It’s just that when you’re there, you have to be really in sync.
Gilas coach Chot Reyes has started preparations before the Holy Week break, with plans to name the final 12 players that will don the Gilas jersey days before the SEAG.
PBA stars June Mar Fajardo, Japeth Aguilar, Robert Bolick, Matthew Wright and Kevin Alas and Japan’s B.League cagers Dwight Ramos and Thirdy Ravena were among the 16 players named to the Gilas pool.
Others on the pool are TNT’s Poy Erram, RR Pogoy, Troy Rosario and Kib Montalbo, fellow PBA cagers Isaac Go and Mo Tautuaa and amateurs Will Navarro, Caelum Harris and LeBron Lopez.
Antonio said the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas is asking for little time before submitting the 12-man roster for the Games.