For returning Gilas Pilipinas mainstay Roger Pogoy, this current edition of the national team is miles ahead of the squad that played in the last Fiba (International Basketball Federation) World Cup.
“There’s [an] improvement and I could really see it in this team,” he said in a dispatch released by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas on Sunday. “Everyone has a good feel of each other and that’s really an improvement compared to 2018.”
“The longer the preparation, the better, because, imagine the bond that will be made among the players. And Jordan Clarkson looks in top shape, so I really think we have a good shot advancing to the next round this time out,” Pogoy said.
Team Philippines has never made it past group play since returning to the World Cup in 2014 in Seville, Spain, where the Nationals won a game—against Senegal, 81-79, in overtime—before going home empty-handed from Foshan, China in 2019.
Things seem to be looking up for Gilas as it continues to prime up for the Aug. 25 global showcase even without three big names: Clarkson, Scottie Thompson and Kai Sotto as the Nationals have so far split their two games in a pocket tournament in China, winning over Iran and losing narrowly to Senegal.
National coach Chot Reyes believes that there is still plenty of polishing left for the squad before it plunges into action. But he like what he has seen, so far.
“The good thing is we’re moving forward. From the start [of camp] till today, I think we’re seeing a better understanding of what we want to do in defense,” he said in a radio interview on Saturday.
“We’re seeing flashes of good offensive execution even without our No. 1 offensive weapon (Clarkson) here and that’s our focus right now. We just want to keep the train moving forward.”
After the Heyuan WUS International Basketball Tournament China, the team will focus on “integration and execution” once the Nationals land back home.
The Nationals were set to battle Senegal again on Sunday and will try to repeat against Iran on Monday night before flying back.
Clarkson, as earlier reported, is set to reunite with his Gilas teammates around Aug. 8, allowing Reyes to follow through with his plans.
“After this [tournament], we’re going to focus on in-game preparation and our schemes. We’re playing a lot of fundamental defense for now and not yet a lot of scheming. After returning from China, we’ll begin working on those schemes,” he said.
“We got two more games: Montenegro on the 20th and Mexico on the 21st. And those are going to be the final tests. By then, we’ll be complete and have the final lineup already,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Gilas Pilipinas Women rebounded from an opening game loss in the 42nd Jones Cup with a 64-58 nipping of Iran Sunday.
Jhaz Joson and rookie Kacey Dela Rosa starred for the Nationals, who used a big third quarter and a cushion that Iran struggled to break down at Taipei Heping Basketball Stadium.
Joson and Dela Rosa finished with 12 points each as Gilas improved to 1-1. They turn their sights on Chinese-Taipei B Monday. INQ
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