After a successful stint inside the Clark "bubble" for the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers, the Gilas Pilipinas cadets emerged with battle scars accumulated from days of intense physical matchups.
The Philippines won twice against Korea, once against Indonesia, and ended in a stalemate against China in their four matchups. However, they will now leave on Thursday evening for Serbia to see action in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) with injuries to key players.
"We need to heal up as well. Ange Kouame hurt his knee tonight, there was just a clash of knees so it's nothing, but it's going to take a day or two to settle down," shared program director and head coach Tab Baldwin with ESPN5.com.
"Jordan Heading got kneed in the ribs. SJ Belangel took a real shot, he was limping off the court in the game. So we're banged up, but you expect that when you play when we played four games in a week and that's just what happens," he added.
Kouame, Heading, and Belangel add to the injured list of the pool that already includes Dwight Ramos (groin) and Carl Tamayo (ankle). All of them, though, are expected to be in game shape when the OQT starts next week.
Despite the injuries, Baldwin reiterated that the Clark qualifiers was a good experience for a Gilas squad, with an average age of 22, that is looking to get all the experience it can in preparation for the 2023 FIBA World Cup.
"We got kind of banged up in the game, but then we were (already) banged up going into the game. We have some days to recover now. It was really good exercise for us," said Baldwin, referring to the earlier nicks to Matt Nieto, Dave Ildefonso, and Rey Suerte which sidelined them from the "bubble."
Due to the intensity the young players naturally have, further tune up games before the OQT is out of the equation, and the American-Kiwi tactician is also mulling toning down practice a bit.
"These kids go hard at one another and they don't really know how to pace themselves yet, which is a good thing in terms of development, but as you get ready to play in tournaments, you need to sort of idle down a bit and we will help them do that," he explained.
Nevertheless, the team will be all eyes and ears during a masterclass against powerhouse Serbia on June 30 (early July 1 Manila time) and Caribbean counterparts Dominican Republic on July 1 (early July 2 Manila time).