Gilas Pilipinas ahead of its contest vs South Korea

FILE–Gilas Pilipinas ahead of its contest vs South Korea. FIBA ASIA CUP

MANILA, Philippines—For the longest time, the Philippines has been the undisputed king in men’s basketball at the Southeast Asian Games.

Gilas Pilipinas wants to keep that trend going at all costs with the Hanoi SEA Games fast approaching.

That’s why the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) is making sure to assemble the best team possible as the country bids for a 14th consecutive men’s basketball gold in the biennial meet.

“We just want to make sure of the final lineup,” said SBP deputy executive director Butch Antonio on Tuesday during the PSA Forum.

“This is not a walk in the park. If you are the defending champion you have a big bullseye. But the expectation is (to win) nothing but the gold. We can’t afford to lose.”

Since the men’s basketball competition was held at the SEA Games for the first time in 1977, there had only been two instances out of the 20 where the Philippines didn’t come out on top.

In the previous edition staged in Manila, Gilas swept its way to the title, capping its dominant campaign with a 115-81 whipping of Thailand in the final.

“We (as a team) talked about it one time and reiterated that there’s no other route and no other way except gold. It’s a must,” said Antonio.

The SBP has yet to submit its final list of players which will be narrowed down to 12. So far, the SBP still has 16 names bannered by six-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo.

Aside from Fajardo, there are 10 other PBA stars on the list such as Poy Erram, Kib Montalbo, Japeth Aguilar, Isaac Go, Troy Rosario, Roger Pogoy, Matthew Wright, Kevin Alas, Robert Bolick and Mo Tautuaa as the naturalized player.

Japan-based Filipino standouts in Thirdy Ravena and Dwight Ramos are also part of the pool as well as William Navarro, Calleum Harris and LeBron Lopez.

Chot Reyes will call the shots for Gilas, which was under Tim Cone in the 2019 SEA Games.

The SBP, under the leadership of president Al Panlilio, hopes to buy more time for the 6-foot-9 Aguilar to fully recover from a calf injury.

Ample time is also needed for Ravena and Ramos, who will play their final game in Japan on May 8, to fully grasp Gilas’ system.

Gilas plans to leave for Hanoi, Vietnam on May 13, three days before the start of the competition. All 16 players have been booked for the flight to Hanoi.

The Philippines is also defending its titles in 3×3 and women’s 5-on-5.

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