Head coach Mark Dickel is keeping the focus of Gilas Pilipinas in check heading into a crucial game against Indonesia in the first window of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifier on Sunday at the Britama Arena in Jakarta.
Dickel, who quarterbacked New Zealand to a pair of Olympic appearances, gave some last-minute reminders to his young squad few hours before they left for the Indonesian capital on Friday night.
He said they should maintain their focus and execute everything they worked on in training despite very little experience in the international arena.
Justin Chua, Isaac Go, Dwight Ramos, Juan Gomez de Liaño, Thirdy Ravena, Abu Tratter and Matt Nieto are all competing in their first major international tournament, leaving Philippine Basketball Association players like Poy Erram, CJ Perez, Roger Pogoy, Kiefer Ravena and Troy Rosario facing a major challenge of providing veteran experience.
They will be stacked against a seasoned Indonesian team that is handled by Rajko Toroman, the charismatic Serbian who kicked off the Gilas Pilipinas program in 2009.
Southeast Asian Games veterans Abraham Grahita, Andakura Dhyksa, Kaleb Gemilang and Vincent Kosasih will carry the fight for the Indonesians, who were crippled when naturalized player Lester Prosper failed to complete his documents and Indonesian-American Brandon Jawato crashed with an injury.
Still, Dickel said they would not take the Indonesians lightly.
“Everyone is ready and focused. The key between now and Sunday is to stay locked in,” said Dickel, who is also in his first taste of international action as head coach of the Philippine squad.
“We have to stay locked in during the walk through and shoot around and good things will happen. There’s no pressure on us to win, but there’s a lot of pressure on us to play well.”
“We have to play a good game and that’s what we’re focused on right now.”
With Toroman calling the shots at the other end, sideliners believed that the game would turn into a chess match between the past and the present Gilas coach.
Toroman guided Gilas Pilipinas to a handful of memorable finishes despite having a very young team composed of college stars Dylan Ababou, Chris Tiu, Jason Ballesteros, Mac Baracael, JR Cawaling, Mark Barroca and captain Chris Tiu.
But Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas replaced him with Chot Reyes, who immediately led Gilas to a silver medal in the FIBA Asia Men’s Championship, a feat that served as their ticket to the FIBA World Championship in Spain in 2014.
Dickel said they are not supposed to hog the limelight.
“I’m not facing Toroman. It’s Gilas versus Indonesia. With a lot of coaches helping me, my job is pretty easy. There’s a whole lot of people around me who make my job easier,” said Dickel, giving credit to his support crew led by Tab Baldwin.
“It’s a matter of getting our guys ready to play because there’s a lot of capable players on the team.”