The Philippine men’s national basketball team arrived safely in New Zealand on Tuesday afternoon, ahead of their showdown with the host nation in the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
Gilas Pilipinas practiced shortly upon arrival at the Eventfinda Stadium in Auckland. With 11 players, the Philippine national team is aiming to redeem itself and get one over the Tall Blacks when they play on Thursday June 30 at Eventfinda Stadium in Auckland. They are aiming to avenge their 88-63 defeat in the February window at home.
Coach Nenad Vucinic will be manning the said 11 players as a knee injury sidelined Ateneo center Ange Kouame. PBA players were not called up as the professional season is currently in full swing.
Dwight Ramos and Kiefer Ravena banner the delegation also featuring SJ Belangel, RJ Abarrientos, Dave Ildefonso, Carl Tamayo, Rhenz Abando, William Navarro, Lebron Lopez, Kevin Quiambao, and Geo Chiu.
The Philippine squad will be much like the team that played in the pair of tuneups against Korea in Anyang, with Dave Ildefonso the only addition after recovering from an ankle injury that kept him out of the Korea trip.
This will be Coach Nenad’s first faceoff against New Zealand, which he handled from 2006-2014.
“I really enjoy the importance of basketball to everybody in this country. And it’s good to be involved in something that means so much to so many people. So with that, comes pressure, obviously,” Vucinic said of his task with Gilas Pilipinas.
“So that challenge to try to bring joy, and we have the World Cup next year, to bring joy to the people that care about the game is something that has to drive anybody that is involved in the Gilas program. It is a pressure, it is a responsibility,” he said.
“But it has to turn into a challenge and has to turn into the enjoyment of working together towards the same goal and that is the performance at the World Cup.”
However, the Tall Blacks and India are won’t to take this team lightly after 10 Gilas players gave Korea’s national players fits in two tune-ups a few weeks ago.
After playing New Zealand, Gilas will return to the Philippines as they host India on July 3 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Gilas Pilipinas currently has a 1-1 record in Group A, as they defeated India in the February window before losing to New Zealand.
The other team in the group, South Korea, has been disqualified after they failed to enter a team in the last window over COVID-19 issues.