The Philippine national men’s basketball team is about to embark on a journey to Lithuania, and the trip is anything but a vacation.
“We expect to get massacred,” said SMART-Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes. “Bubugbugin tayo doon, at kaya naman tayo magpupunta doon para magpabugbog.”
During the camp, the Philippine team will have the chance to play against six of the top professional teams in Lithuania and Reyes believes that the team will face a level of competition that is much higher than it’s used to.
“My belief is if you’re training, you have to train against superior competition. Better skilled, better height and you can only get that in places like Europe, in this case, Lithuania.”
Supervising the Gilas camp will be former Lithuanian national team coach Kestutis Kemzura, who led his country to a bronze medal finish in the 2010 FIBA World Championships in Turkey.
Kemzura’s squad, despite only having one NBA player in Linas Kleiza, suffered only one defeat in eight games – a semifinal loss to the Kevin Durant-led USA national team dubbed the “B-Team” due to the absence of players like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant from the roster.
For Reyes, the Lithuania camp will offer a rare opportunity for the team to be together, and is expected to be a crucial part of the Gilas preparations.
“It’s our first time to be really all complete. This is really our training camp, that’s the way we’re looking at it,” said Reyes.
“It’s going to form a big part of the final decision-making process.”
With several players falling to injuries, the Gilas pool headed to Lithuania consists of just 13 players hoping to make the final cut of 12. The players are Marcus Douthit, LA Tenorio, Gary David, Gabe Norwood, Jeff Chan, Ranidel De Ocampo, Larry Fonacier, Jimmy Alapag, Jayson Castro, Marc Pingris, June Mar Fajardo, Japeth Aguilar and Greg Slaughter. The delegation will leave on June 2.
Not making the trip with health concerns or injuries are Sonny Thoss, Kelly Williams, Jared Dillinger and Ryan Reyes.
The trip is part of the team’s buildup for the FIBA Asia Championship to be held in Manila in August.