The Philippine national men’s basketball team aims to kick off its FIBA World Cup qualifying campaign on a high note as it takes on familiar foe Japan on Friday at Komazawa Olympic Park General Sports Ground Gymnasium in Tokyo.
Gilas Pilipinas tries to get win No.1 before a jampacked crowd in the grueling six-window first round of the qualifiers that will see the Filipinos play home-and-away games with the ultimate goal of booking a prestigious ticket to the World Cup in 2019.
The Philippines has dominated Japan in recent years, prevailing in all of their past five encounters. The Filipinos’ latest victory came in 2015 during the FIBA Asia Championship where they defeated the Akatsuki Five, 81-70, in the semifinals.
But Japan has retooled since then. For the qualifiers, the Japanese is parading naturalized player Ira Brown, a 6’4″ forward who once played as an import in the PBA.
Sharpshooter Makoto Hiejima, big man Joji Takeuchi and pint-sized guard Yuki Togashi, a former NBA D-League player, are also among the players Gilas Pilipinas should watch out for.
Japan is also boasting a new coach in Julio Lamas who previously handled the Argentina national team. He is no stranger to the Filipinos, having faced them in the 2014 FIBA World Cup.
Coach Chot Reyes is definitely not taking the Japanese lightly, tapping the comebacking Andray Blatche to lead the way for Gilas Pilipinas. Jayson Castro, June Mar Fajardo, Japeth Aguilar, Calvin Abueva, Gabe Norwood, Allein Maliksi, Matthew Wright, RR Pogoy, Troy Rosario, Kiefer Ravena and Kevin Alas complete the 12-man Gilas Pilipinas lineup.