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Eyes on the prize




TAB Baldwin claims that Gilas Pilipinas will stay focused despite the cancellation of its game against Thailand.    TRIBUNE PHOTO

Not even the postponement of its game against Thailand could take the focus of Gilas Pilipinas away from clinching a slot in the FIBA Asia Cup.

Gilas program director Tab Baldwin said the decision of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) to call off their game against the Thais on Thursday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum would not have an impact in their rigid preparation for the grueling battle ahead.

He said they would still keep their daily training in anticipation for their match against Indonesia on 23 February at the BritAma Arena in Jakarta.

FIBA’s decision to call off the first game of the first window for the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers due to the global outbreak of the novel coronavirus didn’t come as a surprise.

As of Friday afternoon, the number of infections had soared to 63,000 with a death toll of 1,370, including the latest casualty in Japan.

With this development, sports federation around the world like the FIBA, International Football Federation, International Amateur Athletics Federation and the International Olympic Committee to shelve their respective tournaments, including the qualifiers to the Summer Games in Tokyo.

Aside from the game between the Philippines and Thailand, also scrapped were the matches of China against Japan on 21 February and Malaysia on 24 February.

The Chinese city of Wuhan is considered as the epicenter of the outbreak.

FIBA, however, has yet to announce when the scrapped games will be played.

The 61-year-old Baldwin said they don’t see this development as a reason to relax as their eyes remains fixed on the ultimate prize, which is to qualify in the FIBA Asia Cup, which would be held in Lebanon next year.

“Well, our preparation will not be affected because we still have a game against Indonesia on the 23rd so it doesn’t really change that much,” Baldwin told Daily Tribune in a telephone conversation, saying that he only found out about the cancellation on Friday morning.

“There won’t be any changes. Probably, we’ll just get one or maybe two extra days of practice, but it still doesn’t change anything.”

Gilas Pilipinas has been training for over a week, but it struggles to achieve complete attendance.

In fact, the original 24-man pool had been depleted with absentees with Japeth Aguilar, Christian Standhardinger, Mac Belo, Marc Pingris and Matthew Wright all begging off due to injuries.

De La Salle University standout Justine Baltazar and Ray Parks were also included in the pool, but they have yet to show up due to personal reasons, prompting Baldwin to tap new recruits in Justin Chua, Vic Manuel, Abu Tratter and Javee Mocon to fill the gaping hole in the daily scrimmages.

In previous interview, Gilas team manager Gabby Cui said they would come up with the final roster either on Sunday or Monday and submit it to the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas for approval.

Cui said they are running out of time so they have to ramp up their preparation and decide on who gets in as soon as possible.

“We’ll probably give the lineup to the SBP either Sunday or Monday,” Cui said.

“I don’t think we still have enough time. I still need to talk to coaches. I think it’s about understanding the system. We need to be more cohesive as a unit and achieve that as soon as possible.”

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