There will be no hot streak to ride into the Fiba World Cup.
But at least, national coach Chot Reyes is glad Gilas Pilipinas won’t be going into the tournament cold.
“Obviously, we wanted to win this last game,” Reyes said in a dispatch released by the national basketball federation on Tuesday, the day after a late night loss to world No. 31 Mexico, 84-77, in the team’s final friendly before the World Cup tipoff.
“But there’s a lot of positives,” Reyes added.
“Finally, we were able to get Jordan (Clarkson), Kai (Sotto) and Scottie (Thompson) to play with the rest of the guys, and I think that’s the most important thing going into the World Cup—that we’re not going in cold.”
The trio, who were the last members of the talent pool to report to training, also played together in the friendlies against Ivory Coast and Montenegro. Clarkson sat out the contest with the Los Guerreros to rest, but that also showed Gilas is more than just the Utah Jazz star who will serve as the team’s naturalized ace in the Aug. 25 showcase.
Thomspon had 14 points to lead all of Gilas in the losing stand on Monday night, with other members of the team also contributing.
Roger Pogoy and Dwight Ramos both had nine points, Jamie Malonzo had eight while Kiefer Ravena had seven in a balanced effort that should augur well for the national program that initially looked heavily reliant on Clarkson.
Gilas Pilipinas opens its bid against Dominican Republic, which is prepared for the hosts to come out hard against it.
‘It will be noisy’
“Our first game is against you. It will be noisy,” head coach Nestor Garcia told reporters just before boarding the team’s bus also on Monday night.
“They (Gilas) got shooters, they run the court, they got big guys. They try to attack every time. They are an aggressive team and we respect them a lot, the Philippines,” he added.
Garcia will be relying on NBA caliber firepower, too, in Karl-Anthony Towns for the campaign.
“Clarkson is a star, too. We know that he’s very dangerous, he produces a lot of things,” he said. “We all know that he’s a big player, but basketball is a team game.”
“Philippines has a great team, and that, for us, is a big motivation,” he added.
Towns, meanwhile, kept his outlook modest.
“The game of basketball is worldwide, I’m glad to be able to play against everybody, in every country,” he said with a smile.
With tuneup matches done, Reyes now shifts his focus on film and plotting.
“We’re now going to condense everything we’ve learned in those last two months and two tuneup games that we’ve played for these next three days of practice,” he said.
“[It’s going to be a] combination of video and court work to make sure that we’d be ready at our highest form for Aug. 25. So these three days are going to be very, very important.”
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