TOUCHDOWN, LEBANON! | Gilas now in Beirut for 2017 FIBA Asia Cup

August 6, 2017 - 6:05 PM
Photo from Sports5's Jutt Sulit

The Philippine national men’s basketball team arrived in Lebanon on Sunday just a few days before the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup slated this week in Beirut.

Gilas Pilipinas will play its first game on Wednesday against defending champions China in the finals rematch of the tournament’s last edition in 2015.

While much is expected from Gilas Pilipinas, the squad endured many obstacles ahead of the tournament. The team only had two weeks of preparation time for the tournament, while some of its rivals have trained for months.

The team is also handicapped in the middle as it will play without top naturalized player Andray Blatche and injured center June Mar Fajardo who still joined the team in Lebanon despite being unlikely to suit up due to a calf injury.

Still, the Gilas Pilipinas squad composed of Jayson Castro, Calvin Abueva, Terrence Romeo, Japeth Aguilar, Christian Standhardinger, Jio Jalalon, Matthew Wright, Carl Bryan Cruz, Raymond Almazan and Gabe Norwood vowed to give their all and show their big fighting heart against the best teams from Asia.

After their much-anticipated match against China, the Filipinos will also take on Iraq on Friday and Qatar on Sunday in Group B.

The FIBA Asia Cup is billed as the continent’s premier basketball tournament. Unlike in the past, it will no longer serve as a qualifier for the FIBA World Cup or the Olympics.

This year marks the debut of Oceania giants Australia and New Zealand which Gilas Pilipinas might face in the later rounds.