MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine men's national basketball team continues to make progress in its preparation for its upcoming FIBA Asia Cup qualifier game against Indonesia, even as the coronavirus outbreak makes postponement a very real possibility.
Gilas Pilipinas' first game of the qualifying window against Thailand, originally scheduled for February 20, has already been postponed by FIBA in light of the outbreak. In its statement, basketball's governing body said it "will continue to monitor the situation closely and will not hesitate to implement any further measures or precautions should they be required."
As of Monday night, the game is a go.
"We really rely on FIBA," Gilas Pilipinas team manager Gabby Cui told reporters after practice at the Meralco Gym. "There's a lot of talk that it might be postponed."
"(If) FIBA gives us the tweet or the announcement, then we'll postpone it," he added.
In the meantime, the team will keep preparing, said interim coach Mark Dickel.
"I see the same stuff you guys might see online or whatever," he said. "There's talk of that (postponement)."
"But once again, if it happens, it happens. But we gotta keep going ahead like we think the game's gonna take place," he stressed.
Nineteen players practiced on Monday night, led by team captain Kiefer Ravena and PBA veterans Poy Erram, Troy Rosario, and Roger Pogoy. Marc Pingris of the Magnolia Hotshots was also present, but was still in street clothes due to a knee issue.
Dickel said the past two days of practice "have been really good" for their young team, which features plenty of incoming PBA rookies as well as UAAP standouts.
"They've taken real steps forward in what we're running, how we're trying to run it," said the coach. "So now, it's all heading in the right direction."
Although Gilas will be fielding a young and relatively untested squad in the upcoming qualifier, they remain favorites against Indonesia, a team that the Philippines has traditionally dominated in regional competition.
Still, Dickel said they cannot look past the Rajko Toroman-coached squad.
"Just watch the games they had at the SEA Games," he pointed out. "(They are) really well organized."
"They've got good players, so we know they're gonna come intense and be ready, and believe from the start of the game that they can win. So we have to adjust from the start, and do the same," he stressed.
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website).