By Adrian Stewart Co
After sweeping their three matches in the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers, Gilas Pilipinas is shifting its focus to the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament to be held later this month at the Aleksandar Nikolic Hall in Belgrade, Serbia.
Gilas head coach Thomas “Tab” Baldwin said the team will immediately go back to work to prepare for their matches against Serbia on June 30 (July 1 in the Philippines) and Dominican Republic on July 1 (July 2 in the Philippines).
The national men’s basketball team mentor added that he will bring 12 to 13 players to the Serbia qualifiers, which will be taken from the 15-man pool that competed in the “Clark Bubble.”
“We haven’t made a final decision on that yet, but obviously we are only going to play 12 because we are not allowed to change roster like what we did in this tournament,” Baldwin said.
“This is a great group of guys to work with. I think that these players have their own confidence — the confidence of youth, the confidence of hard work, the confidence of having some success,” he added.
Also, as part of their build up for the Olympic qualifiers, the Gilas Pilipinas is hoping to have a tune up match with China, which is also staying in the country to prepare for their own qualifiers.
“We are very hopeful that we might get a practice game against China,” said Baldwin. “Every game that we can get for these young men is extremely important. It will help us prepare. China is an elite Asian team.”
Serbia, which will play minus NBA MVP Nikola Jokic of Denver Nuggets, are to be led by Dallas Mavericks center Boban Marjanovic, Oklahoma City Thunder forward Aleksej Pokusevski, Atlanta Hawks’ Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Miami Heat’s Nemanja Bjelica.
Dominican Republic, for its part, is also expected to parade a solid core in the qualifiers despite former NBA player Marco Bellinelli begging off to rest after playing for Virtus Segafredo Bologna.
The winner of the Belgrade OQT will join hosts Japan, reigning Olympic gold medalist United States of America, 2019 World Cup champion Spain, Argentina, France, Australia, Nigeria, Iran, and the victors of the other OQTs in Kaunas, Lithuania; Victoria, Canada; and Croatia in Tokyo Olympics./ASC, WDJ