Hanoi—The coaches and players of Gilas Pilipinas may not directly say it, but they want redemption when they open their title-retention bid in the 31st Southeast Asian Games against Thailand at 3 p.m. (4 p.m. Philippine time) at the Thanh Tri Gymnasium.
Head coach Chot Reyes said Gilas will be facing improved competition from the region and that includes their first opponent in Thailand.
Reyes revealed that Thailand’s 3×3 team that captured the SEA Games gold last Saturday in Moses Morgan, Frederick Lish, Antonio Price Soonthornchote, and Chanatip Jakwaran will also be seeing action in the 5-on-5.
The Philippines’ 3×3 team placed only third in these games after ruling the event in 2019.
“The kind of opposition that we have here is serious. They are a serious threat. We already saw what happened in the 3×3. Those are the guys. We know their level and that’s why it’s very important that we will be able to beat that challenge,” said Reyes.
The nationals will be eyeing a 19th SEA Games gold medal in men’s basketball.
Gilas also had last-minute changes to their roster with Kiefer Ravena being called-up after Robert Bolick and Dwight Ramos couldn’t make it here. Bolick had to attend to his ailing father in the United States while Ramos still has commitments with his ballclub in the Japan B.League Toyama Grouses.
Kevin Alas also begged off from Gilas to attend to his wife Selina, who was recently diagnosed with a rare cancer called Gestational Trophoblastic Neoplasia.
Ravena is eyeing his sixth SEA Games gold medal, and he has a chance to do so with his brother Thirdy, making his debut in the biennial meet after his second season with San-En Neophoenix in Japan.
Also in the squad are six-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo, Matthew Wright, Roger Pogoy, Troy Rosario, Mo Tautuaa, Kib Montalbo, Isaac Go, Will Navarro, and Lebron Lopez.
Gilas Pilipinas Women also begins its quest to defend the gold when they clash against Indonesia at 9 a.m. (10 a.m. Manila time).
The women’s team eyes a second straight title after winning the historic first gold in basketball in 2019 in Manila.
Two new players recently recruited in the United States in Gabi Bade and Stefanie Berberade will make their SEA Games debut. Bade, from Sacramento State, is the daughter of former PBA player Cris Bade, while Beberabe is a former Player of the Year in National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) school Westmont.
“This time around, medyo malaki ang difference. Six veterans and six new ones, not to mention na meron tayong tatlong Fil-Ams. Siguro medyo maliit tayo ngayon pero we are faster,” said Aquino.