Gilas Pilipinas faces Italy tonight in FIBA games
GILAS Pilipinas starts its 2019 International Basketball Federation (FIBA) World Cup preliminary round campaign AT 7:30 p.m. on Friday against the two-time EuroBasket gold medalist Italy at the Foshan International Sports and Cultural Arena in China.
The Philippine men’s team on its second straight World Cup appearance since 2014 in Spain battle the Azzurri headed by National Basketball Association (NBA) players Danilo Gallinari of the Oklahoma Thunder and Marco Belinelli of the San Antonio Spurs.
Gilas Pilipinas coach Yeng Guiao and his players know how important winning their first game against Coach Meo Sacchetti’s Italian team would be.
Only two teams per group will advance to the next round.
Aside from the Philippines and Italy, Angola and Serbia are the other two teams in Group D.
But Guiao told his players just to enjoy the game and play their best.
“It’s a realization that eto na yung labanan, eto na talaga yung (this is the real thing, this is really the) competition so you better be ready but it feels that you’re in heaven. Enjoy na lang natin talaga ito (Let’s just really enjoy this). We will just play our best, the way we know how to play basketball,” Guiao told ESPN5 reporter Lyn Olivario on Thursday night in Foshan.
After arriving on Thursday afternoon in China, Gilas Pilipinas went to practice immediately to get the feel of the venue.
“It’s a good practice, nice venue and world class feeling mo nasa basketball heaven ka (you feel like you’re in basketball heaven). We are lucky and blessed,” added Guiao. “This is the best in the world and you are together in one place.”
Besides their NBA players, the Italians, who rank No. 13 in the FIBA world, also has team captain Luigi Datome, Daniel Hackett, naturalized Jeff Brooks, Allesandro Gentile, the 24-year-old 6’10 Amedeo Tessitori, Awudu Abass, Paul Biligha, Luca Vitali and Ariel Filloy.
The Italian team has an average height of 6’7 and average age of 29-year-old while the No. 31 Filipinos are smaller at 6’4 but have the same average in age.
President Rodrigo Duterte will be cheering for the Filipinos in their first game against Italy. After Italy, Gilas will take on Serbia on Monday (September 2) and Angola on Wednesday (September 4) both in Foshan also.
Gilas Pilipinas is composed of CJ Perez, Robert Bolick, veteran Gabe Norwood, June Mar Fajardo, Roger Pogoy, Mark Barroca, Raymund Almazan, Japeth Aguilar, Paul Lee, Troy Rosario, Kiefer Ravena and naturalized Andray Blatche.
The last time the Philippines met Italy was in the 1978 FIBA World Championship at the Araneta Coliseum with the Filipinos losing that game, 75-112. JOSEF T. RAMOS
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