Gilas Pilipinas combo guard Jayson Castro said the national squad will be hard-pressed to beat a stacked-up France side after San Antonio Spurs playmaker Tony Parker declared his availability for the Manila leg of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament set this July.
“Sayang nga eh, malaking advantage na sana sa atin na di siya maglalaro kasi para wala silang point guard na veteran and at the same time may chance talaga tayo,” the 5-foot-9 guard told FOX Sports.
France, along with Canada, Turkey, Senegal and New Zealand have been bracketed with Gilas Pilipinas in the Manila leg of the Fiba Olympic Qualifying Tournament scheduled this July 4-10 in Manila.
All games will be held at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Among the 18-team field for the Olympic qualifiers, France is the highest-ranked ball club at no. 5 with the team expected to also be reinforced by NBA players like Nicolas Batum of the Charlotte Hornets, the Spurs’ Boris Diaw, Indiana Pacers’ Ian Mahinmi, Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz and the Denver Nuggets’ Joferreyl Lauvergne.
Just last week, the 33-year-old French playmaker announced that he’ll be suiting up for France as it vies for slot to the Rio Olympic Games this year.
Castro though mentioned that Gilas will continue preparing every Monday for the much-awaited qualifying tournament under coach Tab Baldwin.
But since the PBA Commissioner’s Cup is already ongoing, the 29-year-old former Philippine Christian University guard said they will simply try to familiarize with the plays of Baldwin in their once-a-week-practice.
“Sabi naman ni coach Tab na yung Monday practice namin, hindi naman as in pukpukan but more on walk through lang at konting shooting,” explained the 3-time PBA Best Player.
On the other hand, Canada, while ranked lower at No. 26, is set to parade a team led by the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett and Boston Celtics’ Kelly Olynyk.
New Zealand, which Baldwin piloted to the semifinals of the 2002 FIBA World Championship, hopes to parade Steven Adams of the Oklahoma City Thunder to team up with Isaac Fotu.
Turkey will have Ersan Ilyasova and Omer Asik leading the way, while Senegal, the only national team Gilas defeated in the 2014 Fiba World Cup, remains formidable with its athletic roster led by Timberwolves big man Gorgui Dieng. – Richard Dy (follow this writer on Twitter: @richava)