Improving Gilas still ‘work in progress,’ says Chot Reyes


Gilas Pilipinas

Gilas Pillipinas. Photo from Fiba

BOCAUE—Coach Chot Reyes was pleased to see Gilas Pilipinas’ improvements throughout its campaign in the Fiba World Cup Asian Qualifiers.

But Reyes admitted there’s still a lot of work to be done for the national team heading into the World Cup.

The Philippines finished the qualifiers with a heartbreaking 91-90 loss to Jordan on Monday at Philippine Arena, dropping to 6-4 in Group E.

“Work in progress, I guess, is the best way to put it,” Reyes said.

“We started off really, really poorly, in a bad space. Remember, I was appointed and then we played a window right away, what, two weeks after or three weeks after,” he added.

Reyes was reinstated as head coach in February when Tab Baldwin resigned, winning their first window game against India, 88-64, but got dominated by New Zealand, 88-63, at Smart Araneta Coliseum on February 27 last year.

The national team was then handled by Nenad Vucinic as Reyes was focused on TNT when their depleted roster, composed of B.League and UAAP players, suffered from another rout at the hands of the Tall Blacks, 106-60, before bouncing back at home against India, 79-63.

Outside the qualifying tournament, Gilas had disappointing stints as its 33-year gold medal reign in the Southeast Asian Games was snapped in Hanoi, Vietnam and absorbed the country’s worst Asia Cup finish in 15 years last July.

“We had some tournaments, and I’ll be the first to admit that we really did not do well, and I’ve always taken accountability and responsibility for that,” Reyes said.

Gilas got a big boost in August with Jordan Clarkson and Kai Sotto committing to play along with PBA stars like Scottie Thompson and Jamie Malonzo while coach Tim Cone beefed up the national program.

With Clarkson leading the way, the Philippines split its two games after falling to Lebanon in Beirut, 85-81, and whipping Saudi Arabia, 84-46, at Mall of Asia Arena in the Utah Jazz guard’s first game on Philippine soil.

The Filipinos stretched their winning streak to four games, sweeping the pair of road games in the November window against Jordan and Saudi Arabia and beating Lebanon, 107-96, in Justin Brownlee’s first Gilas game on Friday at Philippine Arena.

Gilas failed to end its qualifiers campaign on a high note Monday as Brownlee’s 41-point explosion went for naught after the loss to Jordan.

“When we got the program together and got the players, and more importantly, the practice time in, then I’m sure you would all see that there’s been an improvement in the way the team has developed and has continued to grow,” Reyes said.

Dwight Ramos was the lone player to play all Gilas games in the Asian Qualifiers as the national team had to go with different compositions in all windows. And for Reyes, it was a good gauge to see what the potential roster could be for the country’s World Cup hosting in August.

“I’m saying it’s a work in progress because we’re still in that developmental stage, and in the end, that’s what we can take away from these windows. Knowing the players, knowing their off-court behavior, knowing what they can do and how they fit,”  Reyes, who will head to Japan to coach TNT in the East Asia League, said. “I’ve always talked about fit in two ways. How they fit into the way we want to play, and how they fit with each other. That’s always two types of fit, and the third is how fit they are physically. Fitness, if you have a nagging injury or you have a whatever, you’re not going to be in the lineup. So, we want to get the fittest of the players.”

Reyes also said that there are no guaranteed roster spots for Gilas’ World Cup squad.

With the qualifiers now over, the national team will now momentarily turn its focus on its redemption bid in the Cambodia SEA Games in May.


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