Kiefer Ravena is playing in his fifth straight Southeast Asian Games and in that time he has seen the neighboring countries close the gap with the Philippines.
"With the biennial event other countries have added players, discovering players all over the world who trace their roots from any Southeast Asian country that can help their respective programs," Ravena said.
The gap hasn't narrowed so much that Gilas Pilipinas has had much of a problem. Ravena and Gilas bulldozed Singapore and Vietnam by an average margin of 46.5 points.
Gilas Pilipinas overcame a sluggish start Friday before hammering Vietnam 110-69 for its second straight win.
While Gilas showed its depth in thumping Vietnam behind a solid second half offensive, Ravena said the road to SEA Games gold won't be easy.
"For us, we can't be as confident as we are, probably say 10 to 15 years ago when the competition was like a walk in the park," Ravena said. "Because now we see Vietnam with a good program and with different players playing their best. We just have to be on our toes, especially these coming days."
Greg Slaughter agrees the competition has improved.
"No doubt, a lot of teams (in Southeast Asia) are on the rise. You can see other countries having their basketball associations now," Slaughter said. "Vietnam has the VBA (Vietnam Basketball Association). You can see competition rising really."
Gilas will take on Myanmar on Saturday in a game where the Filipinos are expected to complete a three-game sweep of Group A.
From there, Gilas will advance to the semifinals on Monday in a potential collision course with Indonesia, which is now being handled by former Philippine national coach Rajko Toroman.
Toroman handled the Smart Gilas program from 2009 to 2011, along with serving briefly as team consultant for PBA teams like San Miguel and Barako Bull.
"We just have to be ready. We can't take things lightly now," Ravena said. "With coach Rajko, we're familiar with the system and how he runs his team. Very disciplined, very organized."
Indonesia got its first win under Toroman against Malaysia 101-92 on Thursday. Indonesia lost to Thailand 70-47 in its first game.
Indonesia is looking to end its Group B assignment with a win against Cambodia to secure the second and last seed in the semis.
Thailand will be shooting for a 3-0 sweep of its Group B assignment when it faces Malaysia on Saturday.