Gilas bracing for all-out stand vs Korea
Gilas coach Jong Uichico
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Gilas bracing for all-out stand vs Korea

Olmin Leyba (The Philippine Star) - January 22, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Gilas Pilipinas vowed to be battle-ready for South Korea with or without the Asian power’s naturalized player, former PBA import Ricardo Ratliffe.

Now going by the name Ra Gun-Ah, the two-time Star Hotshots reinforcement has been a key player for Korea since getting naturalized in 2018.

The 6-foot-6 Ra averaged a tournament-best 23 points and 12.8 rebounds in the 2019 FIBA World Cup and should be a handful for Gilas if he comes over for next month’s FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers in Clark.

Gilas coach Jong Uichico said there’s no official word on the American-born big man’s status but stressed that Ra or no Ra, the Philippine squad would be primed for Korea in their third window matches set Feb. 18 and 22.

“Korea has not submitted a lineup yet,” Uichico told The STAR yesterday.

But more than the opponents’ manpower, Uichico stressed it’s really all about getting the Philippine quintet ready at this point.

“We are more focused on the (Gilas) team right now,” he said.

Ra has yet to actually play in the Asia Cup qualifiers. He was out on injury during the first window in February last year, when the Koreans beat Indonesia in Jakarta, 109-76, and Thailand in Seoul, 93-86. Korea did not play in the second window in Bahrain last November due to COVID-19 concerns, an act that resulted in a hefty fine and a two-point deduction in the qualifiers.

Gilas’ pool headed by pros Kiefer Ravena, CJ Perez and Justin Chua is currently holding its training camp at Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna.

A second batch of prospects for the FIBA meet, including TNT pair RR Pogoy and Troy Rosario, NLEX big man Raul Soyud, and collegiate standout Juan Gomez de Liaño is expected to enter the “Calam-bubble” by today.

Gilas is also expecting US-trained young star Kai Sotto to get on board and shore up the frontline.

“We know that Kai has improved and we are looking forward to him joining Gilas in the camp,” Uichico said of the 18-year-old NBA prospect.

Sotto said he was making himself available for Gilas, putting on hold his stint with his Ignite team in the G-League.

“I’m heading home soon. Sobrang excited ako na binigyan ng opportunity para makapaglaro sa Gilas ngayong February window (I’m so excited for this opportunity to play for Gilas in the February window),” Sotto announced on his Instagram account.

“Nag-papasalamat ako sa lahat ng mga sumusuporta at naninawala sa aking pangarap na makapaglaro sa bayan at sa tamang panahon, sa NBA (I thank everyone who supports me and believes in my dream of playing for the country and when the time is right, in the NBA),” he added.

Gilas is looking to snap a five-game losing streak against the Koreans in international play since 2014.

After the Filipinos’ emotional 86-79 triumph in the 2013 FIBA Asia Cup semifinals at the MOA Arena, they have lost to Korea in the 2014 Asian Games, 2015 and 2017 Jones Cup, 2017 FIBA Asia Cup and 2018 Asiad. – John Bryan Ulanday

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