No time to rest for Gilas squad
Gilas coach Tab Baldwin hands out instructions during the game against South Korea.

No time to rest for Gilas squad

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

MANILA, Philippines — With no time or luxury to savor its massive success against South Korea, youthful Gilas Pilipinas returns to the grind for its next mission against the likes of world power Serbia.

Gilas, which broke the dreaded “Korean curse” twice en route to a six-game sweep of Group A in the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers in Clark, immediately moves on to the ultra-competitive Olympic Qualification Tournament (OQT) set June 29-July 4 in Belgrade.

The 31st-ranked Pinoy cagers are bracing for their toughest test in the OQT with Group A duels with 2016 Rio Olympics silver medalist and world No. 5 Serbia on June 30 and the Dominican Republic, ranked No. 19, on July 1.  Puerto Rico, Italy and Senegal comprise Group B.

The end goal is to rule the Serbian leg of the OQT to advance to next month’s Tokyo Olympics.

“We still have a lot of work to do,” said coach Tab Baldwin, whose 15-man pool is staying in Clark for its OQT buildup.

“In Serbia, we’re going to play the Serbian national team which is trying to make it to the Olympics. It’s at home and they have high expectation. I expect there’s going to be great lessons for our players but I know our players are going to fight and that’s what we have to do,” he added.

According to Ryan Gregorio, special assistant to Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) president Al Panlilio, the federation has arranged for a tuneup game against China on June 23, a day before Gilas leaves for Serbia.

The Chinese are also extending their camp in Clark after seeing action in Group B of the FIBA Asia Cup event. They are bound for battle in a separate OQT meet in Canada.

“Every game we get for these young men is extremely important and it will help us prepare,” said Baldwin.

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