Batang Gilas head coach Josh Reyes and his wards are admittedly pressed for time as they only have five days remaining before they fly out to Nothaburi, Thailand for the 2018 FIBA Under-18 Asian Championship.
But even with the very short preparation period — which he describes as an “overnight camp” — the team has a couple of intangibles working for them to help speed up the process.
A bit of familiarity, of course, will play a huge role here. Reyes explained that since most of the players have played with each other at various points in international tiffs, their main focus right now is fine-tuning the team fundamentals.
“I really like the attitude of everyone here. They’re giving their all, they’re giving their complete focus. Madali naman nila napi-pick up lahat. Good thing we had that short build up before we left for the Worlds so they’re quite familiar with some of the stuff so we’re adding just a few more things,” Reyes told members of the media during a practice session backed by Smart and PLDT at Kerry Sports in Taguig.
“It’s the nuts and bolts, the minor details. Those come with experience, making mistakes and correcting the mistakes. We’re hoping to be able to correct everything now and be a well-oiled machine come Bangkok,” he added. “Basketball is a game of habits. Right now, everything that we’re doing is not yet habitual to them.”
Experience gained from past tournaments also helps a lot, and with five holdovers – Kai Sotto, Raven Cortez, Geo Chiu, Gerry Abadiano and Bismarck Lina – from the national team that salvaged a 13th place finish in the Under-17 World Cup joining this team’s core together with Fil-Nigerian AJ Edu and Fil-Italian Dalph Panopio, Reyes expects the team’s overall growth to be quickened.
“We have smart players now, players who have really high basketball IQs. That will definitely help things progress along the way. And I’ve seen great improvement in maturity and understanding of the game from the guys who came from the World Cup,” Reyes observed.
“We’re seeing the benefits of it na kahit ‘di continuous ang practice, they’re still grasping the concepts of what we’re trying to do because we’re coming from tournaments. And I believe we should have more of that in the future so that we’ll have continuity and familiarity with each other,” he continued.
The coach still acknowledged the fact that a week of camp is not ideal, even for a team stacked with talent and filled with experience. They’ve had to deal with members of the National University Bullpups competing in the 2018 Asean School Games in Malaysia and other players catching up on their studies, and these factors meant that their fluidity still isn’t at the bar that they’ve set for themselves.
“It’s still a work in progress,” Reyes said about the team’s chemistry. “I think they’ve had a total of four practices and two games together and that’s it. The purpose of this mini-camp is to finally have all of them together para ma-solo ko naman sila.”
They’ll also have to grasp the fact that other countries may look sharper than them at this point. Top foes in Japan, Korea and China, according to Reyes, have been preparing for more than a month now, while Australia has been competing in various tune-up tournaments.
“I know that we will be good, I know that we will compete hard, but my only concern is lamang na lamang na ‘yung mga kalaban natin. How will we bridge that gap?” Reyes noted. “We’re finding ways. And I trust the players that I have now to be able to find ways to hasten the buildup of this team.”
The head coach, though, is optimistic that the players’ effort should be enough to help reduce the learning curve in the team’s next practice sessions.
“The biggest part for me naman is them getting comfortable playing with each other. And as you know, whatever level it is, that takes time. So hopefully, these remaining practices would be enough,” Reyes explained.
“It’s certainly hard to expect anything in terms of results or things like that, but I will say this: I expect all these guys to play their best and to work their hardest. That’s the expectation we have from everybody: to really give their all for the country and for the team,” he said.
(Photo credit: PLDT)