Blatche-led Gilas goes full force in SEABA

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National team head coach Chot Reyes is leaving nothing to chance as Gilas Pilipinas goes full force in its campaign in the lightly-regarded 2017 SEABA Championship starting Friday, May 12, against Myanmar.

The Filipinos, who are gunning for a berth in the Fiba Asia qualifying tournament and the country’s eighth title overall in the tournament, will be led by naturalized center Andray Blatche and three-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo.

And while some are bickering over the addition of Blatche, who arrived in Manila on Sunday, to the team being overkill, Reyes said it’s the least of his concerns as his main objective is to steer Gilas to the championship.

“I don’t understand that overkill because [if we slip there would be a never-ending criticism],” Reyes told reporters after wrapping up practice on Monday at Meralco gym.

“And it’s a sentiment we share all the way to top management even to MVP and he says it cannot be a situation where, you know, that we don’t put in all our resources behind winning the SEABA,” Reyes added. “We would absolutely not accept that situation that’s why the team is as it is.”

In the previous edition of the tournament two years ago, the Philippines swept its way to the title and the closest winning margin was 26 points against host Singapore in the championship game.

That team, composed mainly of collegiate standouts, had no naturalized player and was led by Ray Parks, Troy Rosario and Kiefer Ravena.

Reyes said despite Gilas’ status as the overwhelming favorite, winning the championship is still not a sure thing.

But by sending the best team possible, the country is putting itself in a great position to win it all.

“I’m going to repeat myself, when Croatia or Argentina, number three team in the world, even Spain when they play the Philippines do you think if they play the Gasol brothers and Serge Ibaka and it’s going to be an overkill?” Reyes said. “If they play us, are they sure that they’re going to beat us? The answer is obviously no, so it’s the same situation with us in SEABA.”

“The fact of the matter is, it’s a competition, it’s a game and we do the best we can to make sure we win it because there are no two ways around it, we have to win the championship in the SEABA, period so we’re doing everything we can to make sure we get that job done,” he added. “Whether that’s overkill or not, I don’t really mind, it doesn’t really affect me, doesn’t bother me. My job is to win the SEABA and as a coach, I have to do everything I can to make sure I get the job done.”

National team mainstay Japeth Aguilar said Gilas has to guard against complacency and not take the competition lightly.

“It’s not really overkill because the level of basketball around Asia is rising and we don’t really want to be overconfident,” Aguilar said.

“And as much as possible, even if some people are saying it’s overkill, it’s still better for us to be sure. We have a small margin for error and we don’t want any slip-ups.” –