Gilas Pilipinas opened its FIBA World Cup Qualifiers with an important win in Japan. They’re set to host Chinese Taipei for their second game, which will be held at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Before our national team goes for 2-0, let’s look back at some moments from their trip to Tokyo.
Jayson Castro William had been experiencing back spasms since Gilas’ training camps in Manila. That didn’t stop him from making coming up clutch in the Japan game.
On the second day of practice in Japan, Calvin Abueva and Andray Blatche warmed up with a one-on-one three-point shootout. Abueva won. He made sure everyone in the gym knew. The two got a good laugh from it.
The first two practices in Japan were held in gymnasiums that can only be accessed through narrow streets, meaning the team bus wouldn’t get through. So Gilas had to travel in cabs.
The veteran and the (semi-) rookie. In his first trip with the main team of Gilas, Kiefer Ravena had Castro as his roommate. The two spent a lot of time together – ramen was their favorite food to bond over. Ravena said he wanted “to absorb everything he could absorb from Jayson and from the experience.”
Coach Chot Reyes allowed the team to wander around Tokyo for the first couple of days. He believes that imbibing the culture of the country they are visiting is a huge part of every Gilas travel.
Even though they weren’t in uniform, Mac Belo, Carl Bryan Cruz and Raymond Almazan were equally vital in the game against Japan. They vowed to do everything they could to help the team from where they sat. That’s what they did, providing cheers, high fives and morale boosts.
Andray Blatche did not have his best game against Japan. He had six turnovers and he repeatedly expressed his frustration throughout the game.
Gilas Pilipinas’ Utility Officer Bong Tulabot is the team’s low-key MVP. He does everything from carrying bags, to taping the players, to ball-boying and water-boying. He even takes care of letting the players know when the shot clock is winding down.
As always, Gilas Pilipinas fans – both foreign and local – showed a lot of love to the team after the game. And as always, the team made time to express their appreciation for their beloved supporters.