National coach Tim Cone is hoping the preparations they had under limited time would bear fruit as Gilas Pilipinas opens its title-retention bid today in the 30th Southeast Asian Games.
The nationals, who spent just around 10 days in practice while the elimination round of the PBA Governors’ Cup was in progress, finally plunge into action as they take on Singapore at the start of the cage competition at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“They have worked hard and have been serious in their approach,” said Cone on the eve of the Filipinos’ first outing in the biennial meet.
Owing to its pretty tall line-up led by June Mar Fajardo, Christian Standhardinger, Japeth Aguilar and Greg Slaughter who are all above 6’9” in height, the Philippines is tipped to dominate its regional foes.
Cone though is not leaving things to chance, and that he is hoping the Filipinos will be able to execute all the things they did during practice.
“We’re hoping that (practice) translates once we hit the floor tomorrow (today) against Singapore,” added Cone.
The Nationals meet the Singaporean at 8:15 p.m. in a Group A action capping the four-game bill.
The other members of the team are Troy Rosario, Vic Manuel, L.A. Tenorio, Stanley Pringle, Kiefer Ravena, Chris Ross, Matthew Wright and Marcio Lassiter.
Actually, originally part of the team was RR Pogoy but the Talk ‘N Text gunner suffered injury during practice, and Slaughter took his slot.
“For the time that we have had, we feel we have the guys, not exactly where we want them, but where we need them to be,” said Cone.
The Philippines and Singapore are bracketed with Myanmar and Vietnam in Group A, with Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia and Malaysia making up Group B.
Vietnam plays Myanmar in the curtainraiser at 12 p.m. in the only other Group A game, with Thailand taking on Indonesia in Group B action at 2:15 p.m.
Malaysia and Thailand square off in the third game at 6 p.m. in women’s side, before the Philippines-Singapore tussle in Group A.
The Philippines has been ruling the SEAG cage competition with iron hand, having won 17 of the last 20 editions. The Filipinos missed the title in 1981 and in 1989.
Tournament format calls for a single round robin each for the two groups, with the top two of each group advancing to the cross-over semifinals.