The Philippines doesn’t usually send its “Team A” to the SEABA Championship. But with the country needing to win the crown to continue its hunt for a FIBA World Cup spot, Gilas Pilipinas decided this year to parade its best lineup to the expense of its weaker foes.
While some say it’s an overkill, Thailand coach Tim Lewis believes that other Southeast Asian nations will learn a lot by playing against the best Filipino players.
“Coming here and competing at this level of the tournament, with the Philippines at its maximum strength, is good. I told the players in the locker room this is how international basketball looks like,” Lewis said.
“They invest on their bodies, they take time to invest on their game. If you aspire to be what they are and you have to do the same. For players of these emerging Southeast Asian countries, for the Philippines to bring their best team, it’s great.”
Lewis, a British national who has been calling the shots for Thailand for the past two years, is aware that it will take a long time before his team and the rest of Southeast Asia catch up with Gilas Pilipinas.
“I’ve been around international basketball for years. I know the level of basketball here and I’ve been here last October watching PBA stuff. Basketball is a religion here. People live, breath and eat it. There’s really a long way for the other Southeast Asian countries to go,” said Lewis who has coached the Great Britain U-20 team and was part of the senior squad’s coaching staff.
“But given time, with the right resources, the right people, we’ll close on that margin.”
Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes shared Lewis’ sentiments and believes that the Philippines shouldn’t take ASEAN teams for granted.
“Kamuntik na tayo noon sa SEA Games. Kailangan mo silang seryosohin. I think by sending our best team, it has somehow helped Thailand in getting better,” he said.
Lewis and his team pushed the Philippines to the limit in the first quarter–the first time Gilas Pilipinas faced some serious challenge in the tournament. But the Filipinos flexed their muscles for the rest of the way en route to a 108-53 win.
“I thought we played very well in the first quarter. We were effective on the floor. We pushed them on the field. The second unit of the Philippines is pretty strong. We took our foot on the gas pedal and when you do that, teams are gonna punish you,” Lewis said.