The new-look Gilas Pilipinas will be tested against lanky and vastly-improved Indian side in the curtain-raiser of the FIBA Asia Challenge tonight at Tehran, Iran.
Comprised by the country’s top amateur standouts, Gilas 5.0 begins their Asian quest at 8:45 p.m. in Iran (12:15 a.m. Saturday Philippine Time) which will be shown live at Aksyon TV.
Playing without professional players for the first time since 2011, the coach Josh Reyes-led squad will be facing a tall order against the Asian elites such as the reigning champion Iran, Olympian and fellow perennial contender China with the streaky Korea and Japan also in the mix.
Long-time Gilas cadets Mac Belo, Kevin Ferrer, Roger Pogoy and Mike Tolomia banners Gilas 5.0 which had their glorious time in the South East Asian level where they ruled in the region, winning the SEABA Stankovic Cup, SEA Games, and SEABA Championship.
Also included in the line-up are Russel Escoto, Ed Daquioag, Von Pessumal, Arnold Van Opstal, CJ Perez, Fonso Gotladera, Chris Javier and Carl Bryan Cruz. Jonathan Grey and Almond Vosotros were listed as team reserves.
Aside from India, Gilas Pilipinas has drawn Chinese Taipei in Group B which they will battle on September 11 at 4:15 p.m. (8:00 p.m. in Manila).
Nations in Group A are China, Jordan and Kazakhstan. Reigning champions Iran is joined by Qatar and Iraq in Group C while Japan, Korea and Thailand composed the Group D.
All 12 nations will qualify for the next phase where they will be divided into two groups with carry over preliminary standings. Then, the top four teams of each bracket will slug it out in the knockout quarterfinals.
Gilas Pilipinas has won the bronze medal in 2014 Wuhan, China edition of then-known FIBA Asia Cup over the host-country by Paul Lee’s heroic free throws. – by John Bryan Ulanday
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