Gilas Pilipinas will get its hands full even against a Serbian team that will play without NBA Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic and Bogdan Bogdanovic in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament slated from June 29 to July 4 in Belgrade, Serbia.
Jokic of the Denver Nuggets and Bogdanovic of the Atlanta Hawks, that is currently playing the Eastern Conference Finals of the NBA against the Milwaukee Bucks, won’t be around as the hosts shoot for a seat in the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
But the Serbians are still a powerhouse team with Nemanja Bjelica of the Miami Heat and man-mountain Boban Marjanovic of the Dallas Mavericks around to lead the charge.
Being confident against Serbia and the Dominican Republic will give Team Pilipinas the fighting spirit they need to overcome great odds.
Gilas Pilipinas head coach Tab Baldwin said this before Team Philippines left Manila on Thursday afternoon.
“I think these players have their own confidence. The confidence of youth, the confidence of hard work, the confidence of having some success,” said Baldwin.
The 12-man squad is made up of Dwight Ramos, Angelo Kouame, Justine Baltazar, Kai Sotto, Carl Tamayo, SJ Belangel, RJ Abarrientos, Isaac Go, William Navarro, Mike Nieto, Geo Chiu and Jordan Heading.
Joining them are coaching staff members Jong Uichico, Caloy Garcia, Sandy Arespacochaga and Sandro Soriano.
“We are focused on various improvements that are relevant to us, and we will certainly make them evident to the players,” added Baldwin.
Team Pilipinas is set to start training once everyone has been cleared through an RT-PCR test, before setting foot at the Aleksandar NikoliÄ‡ Hall, the venue of the tournament.
Gilas will meet Serbia on June 30 and the Dominican Republic the following day.
“These are a great group of guys to work. And we want them to be confident for sure,” said Baldwin.
The Philippines will need two wins to get out of the group stage.
From there, they will move into a crossover playoffs with the top two teams of the other group.
“We want them to believe in themselves, and I think they do,” said Baldwin.
Group B is made up of Puerto Rico, Italy and Senegal.