Gilas Pilipinas coach Yeng Guiao believes his restructured 12-man lineup will be quicker and ready to defend the perimeter against Iran in their final homestand for the fifth window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers on Monday.
Big men Greg Slaughter and JP Erram, guard Alex Cabagnot and naturalized player Stanley Pringle were relegated to the reserve list to give way to Arwind Santos, Troy Rosario, Jayson Castro and Christian Standhardinger.
After two practice sessions since Gilas' shock 92-88 loss to Kazakhstan Friday, Guiao said the national team is "95 percent" for Iran, which will play without their main stars Hamed Haddadi and Nikkhah Bahrami.
"We are eager and aching to get a win to compensate for our first game loss and make our countrymen happy," Guiao said after Gilas' Sunday night practice at the Mall of Asia Arena.
"We're about 95 percent ready for the game versus Iran and by tomorrow, we'll probably be 99 percent because our one-hour shootaround on Monday will be important for us. The remaining one percent is just for us to tie some loose ends," he added.
A win will put Gilas and Iran in a tie for second in Group F, giving the Philippines the much-needed momentum heading to the sixth window next February. Gilas' last two assignments will be away games against Qatar and Kazakhstan.
With Santos, Standhardinger, Rosario and Castro, Guiao feels they are a lot quicker and could readily keep up with Iran, which beat the Philippines, 81-73, in Tehran during the fourth window last September.
"The team looks good. They look a lot better than the first time that we played. We made some adjustments and we put in Christian as our naturalized player," he said.
After the Kazakhstan loss, Guiao said they realized that their biggest need at this point are players who are not just big, but quick as well.
"We've learned from our past game against Kazakhstan that we don't just need size per se. But our size must also be quick, they must be strong also because Iran is big, skilled and strong," he added.
Meanwhile, Castro and Rosario are eager to contribute right away now that they're done serving their respective three-game suspensions due to their involvement in the Philippines-Australia brawl in July.
"Since I practiced the last two weeks, I was able to pick up what coach Yeng wants me to do under his system. I also sought advice from the players who have played under him, like Gabe (Norwood) and Beau (Belga). So the information I got from them, I apply them in practice," Castro shared.
The 32-year-old Castro said he's taking the Iran game with a "business-as-usual" approach and doesn't want to be overly excited in playing before an expected full-house crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena on Monday.
"We know this is a very important game. Excited but also, I will just try to play my natural game because I also don't want to be too excited, otherwise, I might lose my focus and not get my rhythm in the game," he said.
Rosario believes his size and quickness will help Gilas bounce back with a win against Iran.
"I think I can bring quickness in the three and four positions because if ever our big men get into foul trouble, I can play the spot," he said. "I'm also switchable because I can defend the guards, too."
The Iranians enter the game on a two-game losing skid after losing to the Japanese in September, followed by a humiliating loss to Australia on Friday.