FOSHAN, China -- Gilas Pilipinas finally made the trip they have been working so hard and long for, arriving in China Thursday for the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
"Being here feels surreal," Gilas Pilipinas coach Yeng Guiao said. "Because if you are a basketball fan, this is heaven."
Guiao and the team made the three-hour flight to Guangzhou where they were met by a handful of volunteers from the Chinese federation. They traveled by bus for 90 minutes to the host city of Foshan.
Immediately after arriving, the players and coaching staff went straight to lunch where they got their first glimpse of the Italy and Angola teams.
"Actually, none of us expected to see them that early," Guiao said. "We were a bit surprised. It's a reminder what we're really here for and it reinforces the things that we already know. They're taller than us and they look stronger than us so we'll have to figure out a way to overcome these disadvantages to win."
The small ballroom was divided into four areas for the four teams in competing in the city.
"Danilo Gallinari was there, Marco Belinelli was also there. So we saw immediately that their entire team almost had the same height," Guiao said. "Their point guard is 6-foot-7. We'll have 6-flat and 6-foot-1 defenders against him so we'll have to overcome that."
Guiao led the team through a film session that afternoon. He stressed the importance of limiting their opponents' offensive rebounds, making free throws, and keeping their turnovers to a minimum.
Assistant coaches Sandy Arespacochaga and Ford Arao broke down some of Italy's plays and mapped a defensive strategy.
Arespacochaga and Arao arrived in China earlier than the rest of the team to scout the warmup games featuring Italy and Serbia. They gathered footage and edited it down to shorter clips for players to review.
"What they did was so valuable for us," Guiao said. "Even when we were still in Manila, they were already sending us great information but it's better now that we are together with the players so we can really talk about everything in detail."
Gilas Pilipinas later that evening went to the game venue for the official photoshoot with FIBA followed by a 90-minute practice at the Foshan International Sports and Culture Center.