MANILA — For Gilas Pilipinas, moral victories won’t do in the Asian Games basketball.
The national basketball team is set on ending its gold-medal drought as it starts its rally against India on Tuesday, 1 p.m. (2 p.m. Manila time) at Hwaseong Sports Complex.
“It will be disappointing if we don’t win the gold medal,” said national coach Chot Reyes. “Of course, having said that, we are very well aware that Iran is the No. 1 team here, China is No. 2 and Korea will be very strong because they will play in front of their home crowd.”
Gilas already started its practice weeks after the team was eliminated from the Fiba World Cup held in Seville in Spain where they earned their first win for the country in almost thirty years.
This time, they won’t even consider moral victories.
“We are aware of the expectations here and those expectations are different from the one we had in the World Cup, but we’re ready to face the pressure,” said veteran playmaker Jimmy Alapag.
Reyes added, “Everyone is expecting us to win the gold here. But there is no pressure greater than the one we put on ourselves.”
The country hasn’t won any gold medal from the Asian Games since 1962.
Aside from Alapag, the other team members include LA Tenorio, Paul Lee, Jared Dillinger, Gabe Norwood, Ranidel de Ocampo, Marc Pingris, Japeth Aguilar, June Mar Fajardo and naturalized center Marcus Douthit, who will replace Andray Blatche after the later was banned from playing because of eligibility issues.
“I’m mentally ready,” said Douthit who led the Gilas Pilipinas in last year’s Fiba Asia championship. “I’ll get better physically as the tournament progresses,” he added.
“I believe Marcus will get the job done,” said forward Marc Pingris. “We just have to support each other.
Assistant coach Ryan Gregorio also believes that Douthit will play a key role in the team given that he already knows the system.
After India, they will be facing Asian champion Iran on Thursday.
The top eight teams in the Asian Games, aside from the Philippines, include Iran,China, South Korea, Japan, Qatar, Jordan and Chinese Taipei.
China and Taipei are in Group C, Korea and Jordan are in Group D, and Japan and Qatar are in Group F.
The four groups will be made up of three teams. The third will be determined by the four best teams from the qualifying phase.
The top teams of each group will proceed to the quarterfinals.