Gilas Pilipinas ended preparations for the Fiba (International Basketball Federation) World Cup with two straight losses, not an ideal way to start a tournament, especially one of this magnitude.
But Jamie Malonzo, who will make his World Cup debut Friday when the Filipinos battle Karl Anthony-Towns and the Dominican Republic, feels those losses have only made them better.
“Anytime you step on the court and play at that high level, you get to take away a lot,” Malonzo told the Inquirer on Tuesday when the team finally opened practice to members of the media at PhilSports Arena in Pasig.
The Philippines lost to Montenegro, 102-87 and Mexico, 84-77, in its last two tuneup matches over the previous two days.
“For yourself, you always think about how you can score, how you can affect the game so [those] losses sort of give you something to look at, something to work on, something to always make yourself better.”
This bunch of Nationals that will be led by Jordan Clarkson will be seeking to win two games to get out of group play and possibly advance the country outright to the 2024 Paris Olympics.
And Malonzo just can’t wait to finally showcase the Filipino brand of game to the world.
“I think everybody’s ready. We’ve been going hard [at] training a lot, so I think everybody’s finally ready to go out there and compete. I know I am. I can’t wait for Friday,” the high-flying Ginebra forward said.
Malonzo first suited up for Gilas early this year in the Asian Qualifiers, also held at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan province. Counting Ginebra games that also played to mammoth crowds there where the Gin Kings have always been cheered for, Malonzo won’t be overwhelmed should the expected 53,000-strong crowd show up.
And seeing action in the World Cup for the first time in his young career, the 27-year-old Malonzo knows what he can bring to the table to help both his veteran and younger teammates.
“Definitely energy [and] defense. Anytime I come in, I try to affect the game in any way I can,” he said. “Personally. Just give it my all, give my energy. Hopefully give some highlights, some nice plays out there for the Filipino fans.
“Excited. I love to compete at the highest level so this is pretty high for all of us Filipino players,” Malonzo said.
Japeth Aguilar was named skipper in what could possibly be his last World Cup and the 6-foot-9 forward—in his third time to play the global showcase—believes this group has the most talent he’s seen.
“We had a lot of time to prepare. We’ve already done everything, so I feel like this team has what it takes to win,” Aguilar said.
Aguilar first played in 2014 in Spain and while noting the special bond that they had that time, he believes this batch also has strong chemistry and better chances with the amount of talent they have in the roster.
“Talent-wise, I feel like our guys right now are more talented,” he said. “But of course, we still have to emulate that team we had back in 2014. If we help each other inside the court, we will overachieve.”
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