Gilas finalizing N. Zealand trip

Needing more games to reach its full potential, Gilas Pilipinas is now finalizing the finer details of its New Zealand schedule where it hopes to play five friendly games, including one exhibition against its national team, as the Nationals intensify their preparation for the FIBA-Asia Championship slated Aug. 1 to 11.

Gilas Pilipinas team manager Butch Antonio said they are working very hard to make the schedule acceptable to all parties aside from fixing their travel documents, logistics, accommodations, and the possible opponents for the Nationals.

''We're finalizing everything. We're looking at July 10,'' said Antonio when contacted by the Bulletin.

Gilas initially planned to train in Las Vegas but eventually dropped the idea since there's no team available from the NBA Summer League to play against the national team - same thing to its planned trip to Australia.

In New Zealand, the national team is expected to play tune up games, and not train, which it did during a two-week training camp in Lithuania under ex-Lithuania national coach Kestutis Kemzura.

The Nationals posted five wins in seven games they played in Lithuania.

Gilas Pilipinas guard LA Tenorio said that for them to be more competitive, they ought to have more tune-up games as they are still trying to improve on their defensive alignment.

''We still have to work on several things, particularly on defensive end. We need to be more solid, and lockout on defense, because that will fuel our running game, which I think will be our advantage against the other teams,'' said Tenorio.

The top three finishers in the FIBA Asia tournament will advance to the World Championship in Spain next year and Gilas backers are hoping the Nationals can make it this time.

The national team is bracketed in Group A with Jordan, the first runner-up in the last FIBA-Asia Championship in Wuhan, Chinese Taipei and Saudi Arabia. The Asian tournament serves as the qualifier for the 2014 World Championship in Spain, where the top three finishers will earn berths.

This will be the first time in 40 years that the Philippines will host the event, since the Asian championship - formerly known as the Asian Basketball Confederation (ABC) Championship - was held in Manila in 1973.

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