Months of preparations finally come to a boiling point Friday for Gilas Pilipinas as it opens its campaign in the FIBA World Cup against heavily-favored Dominican Republic before an expected sellout crowd at the Philippine Arena.
It’s the first time the quadrennial meet will be played here after 45 years, and Filipino basketball fans are expected to extend their utmost support to the national team that began training two months ago and included holding camps in Europe and playing in a mini-pocket tournament in China.
But Jordan Clarkson and the rest of Gilas would need more than that if it is to get past Karl-Anthony Towns and the Dominicans, ranked no. 23 in the world, and set off its bid on a bright note.
“That’s how we approach this game. We have to be at our best. But even if we play our best that doesn’t even guarantee because that’s how strong this team is,” said Gilas coach Chot Reyes of the Filipinos’ highly-touted opponent.
“The only thing that’s sure is if we didn’t play our best, then we won’t have a chance.”
The Dominicans are coming over fresh from beating Canada, among the favorites to win this year’s World Cup, and lost a close one against defending champion Spain as Towns fouled out in the final quarter.
“It’s indicative of how strong that team is – a team that has been together for a while, and they have a couple of NBA players and one legitimate All-Star in Karl-Anthony Towns,” Reyes added.