The long road for Gilas Pilipinas to secure a slot in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics begins today (Sept 23) at the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship in China.
The Philippine basketball team will play against tournament first-timer Palestine at 11:45 am (PH time) at Changsha Social Work College’s Gymnasium.
The Palestinians secured a slot in the FIBA Asia after finishing third place behind Lebanon and Jordan in the West Asia championship, Inquirer.net noted.
Gilas head coach Tab Baldwin flew his team for a five-day training camp in Cebu last week. Baldwin said the training camp in Cebu sharpened the squad after they introduced new plays and improved their system, CNN Philippines wrote.
Gilas Pilipinas will be led by former NBA star Andray Blatche, an American naturalized Filipino citizen who plays for the Xinjiang Flying Tigers, along with the national team as a power forward/center. He had been an important player on the Philippine team’s victory against Senegal, which also marked their first win in the 2014 World Cup after four decades.
Andray will play alongside Marc Pingris, Ranidel Ocampo, and Asi Taulava. Dondon Hontiveros, JC Intal, Matt Ganuelas-Rosser, Sonny Thoss, Gabe Norwood, Jayson Castro, Calvin Abueva, and Terrence Romeo complete the team.
According to Inquirer.net, Gilas Pilipinas is highly favored to dominate Group B and to join the top three teams in Group A where the defending champion, Iran, belongs.
The Philippine team will also face Hong and Kuwait for the first round of the tournament this week.
The winner of the 2015 FIBA Asian Championship will secure a spot to representative Asia in the Olympics in Rio next year.
Gilas Pilipinas has not been to the Olympics since 1972 in Munich and it has been nearly 30 years since it dominated the Asian championship.
Watch the Gilas Pilipinas-Palestine game live stream here.
Don’t miss other Gilas’ matches this week.
September 24, 2015 (Thursday)
Gilas Philippines vs Hong Kong – 9:30 am (PH time)
September 25, 2015 (Friday)
Gilas Philippines vs Kuwait – 4:45 pm (PH time)