Gilas to go all-out in 2017 SEABA Championship

Gilas Pilipinas is set to go all out in their quest to defend their SEABA crown when the 2017 edition of the tournament starts on Friday, May 12 at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City, Philippines.

Led by head coach Chot Reyes, Gilas will be parading a star-studded roster in the championship featuring a good mix of veterans and newcomers.

They will be bannered again by naturalized big man Andray Blatche in his fourth consecutive tour of duty for the national team. Blatche has led the team in the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup, 2015 FIBA Asia Championship, and 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

Mainstays June Mar Fajardo, Japeth Aguilar, Calvin Abueva, Jayson Castro, Terrence Romeo, and Troy Rosario, cadets Matthew Wright, Roger Pogoy, and Jio Jalalon, and first-timers Allein Maliksi and Raymond Almazan make up the rest of the squad.

Though the team has long dominated the Southeast Asian basketball scene, Gilas has no intentions of taking the tournament lightly according to Reyes, realizing the importance of the upcoming task and respecting the fact that the Philippines’ neighbors have all been improving with their respective basketball programs.

“Given the importance of winning SEABA, we have to field our best team possible. That is the guiding principle,” Reyes said. “It is very simple for me: win the SEABA, advance to the FIBA Asia, that is the plan. So it is a competition and anything can happen. The only thing we can do is to be as prepared as possible and have the best team formed. The team I have right now is the best team possible given all the limitations and situations for this time.”

The seven teams will be battling in a single-round robin from May 12 to 18, with the top team at the end of the elimination round emerging as winners of the 2017 SEABA Championship.

Only the champion will qualify for the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup in Lebanon from August 10 to 20, the starting point for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup qualification.

“We are in deep preparations for our campaign on Friday, the first step to get us qualified for the FIBA Asia Cup, FIBA World Cup, and hopefully, god-willing, the Olympics,” Reyes said.

“I am a firm believer in, when you dream, you dream big. The Olympics is our north star. The only way to get to the Olympics is to win the SEABA (first) so it starts on Friday.”

Although Gilas has not started training at full-strength with Blatche until May 6, Reyes doesn’t see an excuse for it, and is comfortable that his team can make the necessary adjustments.

“It is not going to be enough time. We are already resigned to the fact that we are not going to be a hundred percent prepared but having said that, we are not going to use that as an excuse and we will still find ways to win because there is a job that is put on our shoulders,” Reyes said.

“We have to find ways around it and get the job done.”

Out to challenge Gilas for the title are Myanmar, Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand.

Gilas will start their campaign on May 12 against Myanmar.

View 2017 SEABA Championship Schedule

Written by Levi Verora Jr
Photos by Glenn Michael Tan

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