Gilas Pilipinas left Karpenisi, Greece on Monday to begin its next stop in Istanbul, where the national squad plays the Turkey men’s basketball team in a friendly match the next day.
National playmaker LA Tenorio said the team’s training camp in Greece involved repetition and simulation of game play situations to prepare Gilas for numerous scenarios come the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, set to start on July 5.
The Filipinos play world no. 5 France in the FIBA OQT’s opening day at the Mall of Asia Arena, followed by New Zealand on July 6.
“Madalas sini-simulate niya (Gilas coach Tab Baldwin) yung mga situations and pinaghahandaan na talaga yung mga players na possible na maglalaro (at FIBA OQT),” Tenorio told FOX Sports, before leaving for Istanbul.
The veteran Ginebra point guard said the team’s two-a-day practices in Greece also involved a lot of running since the Filipinos’ only possible advantage heading to its opening game against France is speed.
“Coach Tab is emphasizing speed with precision and accurate offense. And defensively naman, ganun din, we need to use our quickness,” shared the Tenorio, who turns 32 next month.
San Miguel’s star center June Mar Fajardo and naturalized player Andray Blatche are expected to patrol the painted area in the Olympic qualifying tournament.
The Gilas sentinel is confident that the Fajardo-Blatche frontcourt combination will give the national team the size to match up against France and New Zealand’s counterpart.
“Malaking bagay ang tandem ni Andray at June Mar. Medyo makaka-match up talaga tayo sa mga malalaking players,” noted Tenorio, who averaged 6.2 points, 1.6 rebounds and 1.2 assists for Gilas in the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Seville, Spain.
“But they also need to keep up with the speed kapag magkasabay sila. Kasi iyun ang ideal talaga.”
Since his last Gilas stint in the world championships 2 years ago, the 6-foot-10 Fajardo has grown leaps and bounds after dominating the pro league.
The Cebuano big man has led San Miguel to 3 PBA championships, while carting away 2 MVP trophies and at least 3 Best Player awards in the last 3 seasons.
Filipino fans are hopeful that Fajardo will blend well with the 29-year-old Blatche, since Gilas will be going through the eye of the needle in the FIBA OQT.
“Perfect offense and defense talaga kasi ang kailangan in international competition,” explained Tenorio.
“It’s important to play both ends of the floor for us to be successful.” – By Richard Dy
Follow this writer on Twitter: @richava