Gilas Pilipinas hits the court against Australian club Adelaide 36ers tonight at Meralco Gym in the first of two closed-door friendlies intended to give the team a good workout and gauge of progress eight days before plunging into action in the FIBA World Cup.
Gilas coach Yeng Guiao said the Nationals anticipate good games against the 36ers, a side coached by former Presto import Joey Wright that can test Team Phl with its size and speed.
“It’s going to be a tough series. This Australian team is a good team, they have size, they have speed, they have a good coach, they’re a perennial contender (in the National Basketball League) so this is a challenge our national team needs,” said Guiao of their opponents in the 6 p.m. tuneup.
Guiao said the 36ers matches will give him a pretty clear view of their progress especially coming off their productive 10-day training camp in Spain, where they won three of four games with an 11-player roster.
At the same time, Guiao said the Adelaide outings will allow June Mar Fajardo, Troy Rosario and RR Pogoy a chance to reconnect with their Gilas mates after missing the Spanish trip due to the PBA Commissioner’s Cup finals.
“I’m excited to see how we improved after our camp in Spain. I saw good results in Spain and if we continue to improve, then we’ll have a better chance of performing well,” said the outspoken Phl mentor.
“I also want to see how the three who were gone for long blend with the team. They weren’t with us in Spain and now this is their chance to show how effective they will be with their teammates,” he added.
Although all hands are on deck now for the final stretch of preparations, Gilas won’t be able to field Matthew Wright yet for tonight’s game as he continues to recover from his foot injury, as well as Kiefer Ravena, who can only play after the lifting of his suspension from the FIBA tomorrow.
The two matches are dubbed “Goodwill Games” as they are meant to “heal the wounds” from the infamous brawl between the Philippines and Australia in 2017. Guiao initially sought a friendly with the Boomers but it didn’t materialize due to schedule conflict. He still got his wish to play an Aussie squad.
“This was something I thought will be good for Philippine basketball. We want to erase some of the (bad) memories of the past and replace it with good memories and also renew our friendship and goodwill with Australia basketball,” said Guiao.
“We also know they (36ers) play high quality basketball and they’re going to be a big help towards our preparations,” he added.