Jong Uichico to handle Gilas squad for Asia Cup qualifiers

Veteran mentor Jong Uichico will call the shots for Gilas Pilipinas Men for the second window of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers to be held in Manama, Bahrain next week.

He will be flanked by San Beda mentor Boyet Fernandez as an assistant. Gilas program director Tab Baldwin will also be part of the coaching staff, along with TNT assistant and former NBA center Alton Lister.

Uichico will handle the 16-man pool announced last week which included Isaac Go, Matt and Mike Nieto, Dwight Ramos, Will Navarro, and Dave Ildefonso. Rey Suerte, Justine Baltazar, Jaydee Tungcab, Calvin Oftana, Kenmark Cariño, Allyn Bulanadi, Kobe Paras, and Juan and Javi Gomez de Liaño are also part of the pool.

Gilas, which has been training at the INSPIRE Sports Academy inside the NU campus in Calamba, Laguna in preparation for the second window, will leave for Bahrain on Sunday. The 12 players who will comprise the lineup for their opening game against Thailand on Nov. 26 plus an unspecified number of backups will make the trip.

The final lineup for Gilas' first game will likely be revealed when the team is in Manama, possibly on the 25th. Teams can tweak their lineups on a game-to-game basis during the window.

Ateneo big man Angelo Kouame also made the pool, but is unlikely to suit up due to his on-going naturalization process in Congress.

Based on the latest FIBA Asia Cup schedule, the national team is slated to play three games -- two against Thailand and one against South Korea -- in the Nov. 26-30 window.

In a press conference on Thursday afternoon, Baldwin mentioned that the team is focusing on developing chemistry among the players, since the time needed for preparations had been abridged.

"When time is constricted as it is, you don't go through the normal process of building a team. You have to whittle down the complexity of your system. You're not able to use varieties of offenses and defenses and you really have to try and control the basics," explained Baldwin.

"And when you're coaching a younger team, the introduction of elements we believe exist more in international basketball than what we would see here in the UAAP and the NCAA or even the PBA, we have to introduce those concepts so scouting has been very important," he added.

For Uichico, what's most important is preparing the cadets for a future in the international game.

"It's an adjustment for me because you need a lot more teaching but not making things too complicated. The young players are willing learners and are hard workers so that's something positive we can look forward to, that energy that we can look forward to. We hope that we can get that chemistry as soon as possible," said Uichico.