Gilas Pilipinas head coach Yeng Guiao showed up at the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum on Tuesday to talk about the latest developments on the national team and their preparations for the upcoming FIBA World Cup in China. He tackled several topics, including Jordan Clarkson, Remy Martin, playing tune-ups against Australia and how they plan to defeat the teams in their group.
Looking for practice partners
If Guiao had his way, he would want the national pool to start practicing two or three times a week by mid-June. He also said he would like to have tune-up games against five or six European teams that play similar to Italy, Serbia and Angola.
"You need a lot of mental preparation, because we aren't used to playing against those kind of teams," said Guiao. "It depends on the availability, but if we plan to play tune-up games it should be against squads that are on the same level as the teams in our group."
The national coach even welcomed the idea of playing exhibition games with Australia and New Zealand for practical reasons.
"Australia and New Zealand are close to us, instead of having to go to Europe to play the same brand of basketball we really need to expose ourselves to," he said. "On the practical end, that's what I'm thinking. And also gaining back our goodwill for both sides, trying to restore our relationship with Australia and trying to put (the brawl) behind us. We've all learned our lessons and I'm sure both countries have learned from that. I think enough time has passed to forget about that incident. We just need to cover and erase that memory with a positive one. It's practical for both teams."
The SBP has received several invitations for friendlies from other nations who qualified as well, but Guiao reiterated: "the question, though, if the invitations won't come in conflict with the schedule of the PBA."
Clarkson and Blatche together?
Guiao remains optimistic that NBA player Jordan Clarkson of the Cleveland Cavaliers can suit up for the national team again on the world stage.
"I am keeping my hopes high that he will join us," he said. "His team didn't make the playoffs so he'll be free to join us. He also indicated himself that he wants to play. When we had him in Indonesia (in the Asian Games), he said, 'Let's go to the World Cup, let's play in the World Cup."
Guiao said the only issue with Clarkson is if he's eligible to play.
"It's out of my hands, but the SBP and [SBP chairman emeritus Manny V. Pangilinan] MVP are silently working on it. We just need to leave it to them."
The Gilas coach, though, can't help but wonder how big it would be for the Philippines if both Clarkson and Andray Blatche suit up for Gilas.
"Not only will Jordan's ability help the team, it's a big boost for the morale of the team but also the country for him and Andray to play together. That would be the highlight of my career, if i can have the two of them playing on the national team," Guiao said. "If we can have them both, there's a chance we can win two games."
Remy Martin a possible addition
Guiao revealed that they have been trying to get in touch with Filipino-American Remy Martin, who recently starred for Arizona State in the NCAA.
"We've been trying to get in touch, but so far we haven't had any formal communication. But Coach Ryan (Gregorio) is trying to get in touch, because we want to give those guys a chance to make the team if they are as good as advertised," explained Guiao.
"I've seen him on YouTube and saw glimpses in the US NCAA, and to me he looks good. But you cannot decide on taking in a player based on YouTube videos. We want to invite him here and see how he can blend in with the team."
Guiao said, however, that like Clarkson, they'll need to confirm if Martin is eligible to play for the Philippines before they extend an invite to him.
"What we like about Remy Martin is he is proud of his Filipino heritage."
Blatche a shoo-in
As for Blatche, Guiao said the slot of the naturalized Filipino is secure given how Gilas will need size against Italy, Serbia and Angola in the World Cup.
"We all saw (in the Asian Qualifiers) that we need size. Andray has been with the Gilas program for a while now, and based on the matchups I'm seeing, we will have a tough time against the European teams if we don't have Andray," said Guiao. "And he deserves to be on the team because he brought us there to the World Cup, so I believe his spot on the team is secured already."
Guiao also stressed that he intends to retain the same pool he used for the final window of the qualifiers.
"If there are changes, it will only be one or two players. But it's more or less the same. Chemistry is hard to build. Our last two games (against Qatar and Kazakhstan) we could see how the chemistry among the 14 players was starting to build already. That's why I'm very hesitant to disrupt the chemistry."
Gilas interested in Remy Martin
Yeng Guiao would like to know if Arizona State star Remy Martin would be interested in playing for Gilas Pilipinas.
Game plan in China
Knowing that Italy, Serbia and Angola are high-caliber teams, Guiao said he and the coaching staff are currently plotting ways how to attack the defense.
"We will need to make our outside shots. When you play teams like the teams in our group, which have size, we will have difficulty penetrating and getting opportunities inside. The only way to open that up is if we make our three point shots," said Guiao.
"We also need to speed up the game. If we will play a deliberate style against big and long teams, it will be tough for us. The bigs need to make outside shots, and that's one thing we need to emphasize, because the players might need to adjust their skillset for international play."
"That's why Andray Blatche is important for us is because he can post up and also shoot the three," he added. "With our limited time, it's tough (for the players) to develop new skills. But with the existing skills, maybe we can sharpen them more."