Former coach Rajko Toroman believes Gilas stands a chance in Olympic Qualifiers

Former national coach Rajko Toroman believes an intense Gilas Pilipinas training that begins this May will still be good enough preparation as the Filipinos shoot for an Olympic berth in the qualifying leg in Manila.

The Serbian coach though mentioned that chemistry will be of prime importance in the Philippines’ bid to return to the Olympics for the first time since the 1972 edition in Munich, Germany.

“If they (Gilas players) start preparation at the end of May, it is enough time to prepare for the tournament,” Toroman said when caught by FOX Sports during the Holy Week break.

“But it will be the team who played the last two years together with a few new players and the same coach,” he added.

Read: Gilas ‘Final 12’ will likely depend on France, NZ rosters says Tab Baldwin

Over the past month, Gilas has been holding its usual every Monday practice at the Moro Lorenzo gym inside the Ateneo though coach Tab Baldwin couldn’t get everyone to train together due to the ongoing PBA season.

Two-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo leads the 17-man national pool member, along with Greg Slaughter, Japeth Aguilar, Ian Sangalang, Marc Pingris, Ranidel de Ocampo, Troy Rosario, Marcio Lassiter, Calvin Abueva, Gabe Norwood, Matt Ganuelas-Rosser, Jeff Chan, Jayson Castro, Paul Lee, LA Tenorio, Ryan Reyes, and Terrence Romeo.

Other that Fajardo and Co., former college standouts Kiefer Ravena, Kevin Ferrer, Mac Belo, Russel Escoto, Roger Pogoy and Jio Jalalon.

Naturalized big man Andray Blatche is expected to arrive in the 3rd week of May as he’ll be fresh off a stint with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers in the recent 2016 Chinese Basketball Association season.

Read: SBP may soon look for Andray Blatche back-up if NBA door opens

Baldwin has been taking time to teach his system to the members of the national pool, with Gilas expected to go full blast in training once the PBA Commissioner’s Cup ends in the middle of May.

Gilas is slated to participate in a friendly tournament in Italy, where the Filipinos are set to face the Italian men’s basketball team led by Sacramento Kings gunner Marco Bellineli, along with another foreign squad this June as part of the PH team’s preparation qualifiers.

Toroman said with the Philippines hosting the Fiba Olympic Qualifying tournament set to start this July 5, he is confident that Gilas could perform beyond expectations due to the expected huge Filipino basketball supporters.

“The good thing is that the Philippines is hosting the tournament and it will minimize the advantages of other teams,” shared Toroman, who now handles the Jordan national men’s team.

“With these fans, I believe that Filipino players will play 150 percent of their potentials.”

Read: Collegiate standouts keep Gilas on toes says LA Tenorio

The 58-year-old Serbian coach had a 1st-hand experience of the Filipinos’ all-out support for Gilas during the national team’s silver-medal finish in the 2013 Fiba-Asia men’s championships held at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.

“If the tournament is in Europe, (Gilas will have a) very small chance or almost impossible but in Manila, everything is possible,” said Toroman, credited for leading Iran to the 2007 Fiba-Asia men’s championship.

Gilas is bracketed with EuroBasket 2nd runner-up France and New Zealand in the initial phase of the Olympic qualifier. – By Richard Dy

Follow this writer on Twitter: @richava


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