With the second window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers fast approaching, Gilas Pilipinas revs up its effort in preparing for its monumental matchup against regional powerhouse Australia.
In the first window competition, Gilas swept its two games. They won in Japan by six points, 77-71, before defeating Chinese Taipei at home, 90-83. Australia also played those same two teams in their opening window, humiliating Chinese Taipei and Japan by an average margin of 31 points.
Clearly, Gilas Pilipinas will be in for a battle against the Boomers of the South. But while they've devoted a lot of time preparing for that game, they are also worried about hosting Japan just days after visiting Australia.
"We're preparing as much as we can for Australia, but at the same time, we know that we have to beat Japan. How to do that correctly? We're not yet sure because everyone is new to the situation," Gilas assistant coach Josh Reyes said, referring to the home-and-away format of the FIBA tournament.
Being heavily involved with the scouting of the national team, he sees some pros and cons with the newly introduced system.
"It's better because you have more time to prepare for each specific opponent. But at the same time, teams can field in whatever lineup they want to. So you don't really get to scout them completely," Reyes said.
"Like Australia, we don't really see them play before we actually play them. The last game was a few months back. So you won't know if they'll do the same things. Like us, we probably won't do the same things. That's the biggest difference."
Reyes guarantees, however, that work has been put into scouting their upcoming opponents. They're familiar with the players and with the plays that the Boomers like to run. But there is one major concern for the Philippines.
"What worries us most is not having tune up games leading up to our match against Australia," Reyes revealed. "It's going to be the first time we're going to play a team with that size since the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain. We would have loved to play practice games against quality teams that are on the similar level as Australia, but there's no more time for that."
Like many other tournaments before, preparation time was an issue for Gilas Pilipinas leading up to this window. They only begin daily practices 10 days before the game in Australia. Prior to that, they were limited to Monday night sessions due to players' commitments with other leagues they play in.
In the last few Gilas practices, they invited collegiate imports in order to simulate the zone defense they could face against the Boomers. But the coaching staff knows that it's still far different from the kind of basketball they'll be up against in Australia.
"Australia is very confident. They know that they have the size and the talent. So they play bully basketball," Reyes described. "They will get up in your face, switch everything and force you to beat them physically. There are ways to counter that but again, the key is getting used to that kind of basketball. We have to get used to defending those kinds of players - big and skilled."
Despite the odds going against the Philippines, Reyes remains hopeful they can topple the Goliaths of the region.
"I'm confident that we can matchup well with enough preparation and with enough experience playing those kinds of team. But we don't have that luxury right now. So that's the challenge. When we play them, we'll need to be able to adjust properly within the game."