MANILA, Philippines – The 2017 William Jones Cup is widely considered as a “preparatory tournament” for the Gilas Pilipinas national team before competing in the Southeast Asian Games as well as the FIBA Asia Cup in August.
Nevertheless, the Philippine national team is determined to defend the crown and come home with the country’s sixth Jones Cup title.
“I think Coach Chot (Reyes) put it so well. Yes, we’re saying that this is a preparatory tournament,” said Gilas team manager Butch Antonio during Wednesday’s send-off for the team at the Crowne Plaza Manila Galleria in Ortigas.
“But like any other endeavor, any competition that Gilas participates in, there is only one objective – and the objective is to win,” Antonio stressed.
The Philippines won the 2016 edition of the Jones Cup via an 8-0 record, with a Mighty Sports team that featured seven imports.
This time around, the country is sending a 17-man roster, from which 12 players will be activated for each game. They have only one import – Mike Myers – and a naturalized player in Fil-German Christian Standhardinger. The Gilas players all hope that their participation in the Jones Cup will serve as good preparation for the SEA Games, while also trying to make the country proud.
“Pinaka-importante is ‘yung manalo ka pa rin,” said Kiefer Ravena, who will be going for a fourth SEA Games gold medal in August. “Like what coach said, andoon na kami, so might as well do everything to win.”
“It’s an opportunity for us to get that championship and keep it here in the Philippines, just like what the players from last year’s team did,” he said.
Winning the Jones Cup will also be a good momentum boost for Gilas, said Ravena, as they head into the SEA Games and the FIBA Asia Cup.
“Jones Cup is one step moving forward for the program,” he said. “We have to make sure to adjust and cope up with everything, but our goal is to win, just like any other tournament.”
Gilas Pilipinas assistant coach Josh Reyes warned, however, that winning is far easier said than done, especially as they are up against a strong field that includes a tough Canadian team.
“As expectations go, we want to compete and try to win it all,” he said. “But the most important part is we want to play well and develop the system, because this is a long-term program, as far as we’re concerned.”
“Every time we go out and compete, we want to get better,” Reyes stressed. “We can only do that if we do the right things all the time.”
Gilas Pilipinas leaves for Taiwan on Friday and open its Jones Cup campaign against Canada on July 15.
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