Gilas Pilipinas returned to practice at the Meralco Gym on Monday, looking to maximize every opportunity to prepare for a grueling final window of the second round of the FIBA Asian Qualifiers in late February.
Gilas coach Yeng Guiao held the first practice of the week with 13 players, and said he was satisfied with what the team accomplished. Naturalized player Andray Blatche is set to arrive in the Philippines on Friday and team is eager to get everyone on board.
"This is our longest practice so far," Guiao said. "We've completed the lineup today, of course, except Blatche ..."
Aside from Blatche, Guiao is also incorporating TNT KaTropa's Roger Pogoy and Magnolia Hotshots' Mark Barroca into his system.
"It's a little easier making the adjustments because almost everyone except for Pogoy and Barroca has already experienced playing for me," the Guiao said. "So it's an easier adjustment but no matter the situation, we really don't have enough time.
"But I'm pretty confident that this team can perform better because of the fact that we've combined experience and time together. So we're hoping that we've learned enough for us to be able to win these two games in the coming window."
Pogoy doesn't expect a a steep learning curve.
"Coach Yeng's system is easy to read," Pogoy said. "It involves a lot of passing, and more ball screens. So it's close to the system of TNT. Our motion offense is similar to Coach Yeng's, so it shouldn't be different for me."
While Pogoy is confident and familiar with Gilas' dribble-drive offense, it's a different situation for Barroca. Aside from being apart from Gilas Pilipinas for several years, he also comes from different schemes. Guiao will be looking to the veteran as a defensive stopper for the squad.
"As the new guy, i'm studying how to improve," Barroca said. "Because if you look at the time, even if you say the game is still on February 24, we're only practicing twice a week. So it's not enough. So I'm trying to study and execute the plays of Coach Yeng, so I can improve more."
But the key for this team is undoubtedly Blatche. They're eager for him to join the squad under Guiao and, in particular, to get as many scrimmages as possible under their belt with him.
"My apprehension is we might not get enough tuneup games as we want," Guiao said. "Because he's arriving on February 1, and leaving again on February 11. So within that time, we have to squeeze in as much time as we can playing together."
ESPN5's Lyn Olavario contributed to this report.