Road to Rio: Gilas plans to play Italy ahead of Olympic qualifiers

Gilas Pilipinas might possibly play at least 2 friendly games with the Italian men’s basketball team led by Denver Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari and Sacramento Kings gunner Marco Bellineli, and another foreign squad this June as part of the PH team’s preparation for the Manila leg of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying tournament this year.

Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas deputy director for international affairs Butch Antonio bared the news, saying Gilas has a standing invitation from the Italian basketball federation in the middle of 2016.

“We’re working on it pero inaayos pa lang yung friendly tournament. It’s 2 games at ang naga-ayos niyan ‘yung Italian basketball federation,” Antonio told FOX Sports on Friday.

Read: Big news for Gilas: June Mar Fajardo back in action for national team

Italy, ranked 35th in the the world basketball scene, boasts of 3 NBA veterans led by Bellineli, Gallinari and Brooklyn Nets center Andrea Bagnani.

Antonio said Gilas coach Tab Baldwin intends to maximize the 5-week training window given the national side since the PBA Commissioner’s Cup, should it go the full route, ends only on May 20.

“Pina-plano pa yung training camp so we are trying to see what’s best for Gilas,” he said.

Read: Andray Blatche arriving in May to reinforce Gilas in OQT buildup

“We will also try to get games kaya nga we’re also emailing our contacts so we could hopefully get good games.”

Gilas resumed its every Monday training last month with Baldwin already teaching some basic plays as they prepare against France.

The Olympic qualifying tournament kicks off on July 5 at the Mall of Asia Arena. – By Richard Dy

Follow this writer on Twitter: @richava

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