MANILA, Philippines — Gilas Pilipinas kicks off its road to Olympics campaign when it battles unpredictable Palestine in the opening day of the 2015 Fiba-Asia men’s championships on Sept. 23 in Changsa, Hunan, China.
The Gilas’ opening game is set at 11:45 a.m.
The Palestinians qualified in the Fiba-Asia cage joust for the first time ever following their third place finish in the WABA (West Asia Basketball Association) championship last June behind champion Lebanon and Jordan.
Big man Sani Sakakini along with former GlobalPort Asian import Omar Krayem are expected to lead Palestine against Gilas, who are shooting for no less than the championship to book an automatic seat in the Olympics.
The Philippines last played in the Olympics in 1972 in Munich, Germany, placing 13th among 16 participating nations.
Meantime, Gilas takes on Hong Kong the next day (Sept. 24) at 9:30 a.m., before winding up its preliminary round schedule against Kuwait on Sept. 25 at 2:30 p.m.
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Solar Sports’ local cable channel BTV and its free-to-air partner TV5 are expected to air all Gilas’ games live.
Currently depleted due to injuries to several players, including naturalized player Andray Blatche, who has prostatitis, Gilas would have played at least 13 games after its six-week preparation for the Asian championships.
The Filipinos leave next Monday for Estonia for a pocket tournament, where they face the host team, Iceland and the Netherlands.
Gilas returns to Manila by Aug. 24, before flying shortly to Chinese Taipei for the annual William Jones Cup.
The national squad participates in the four-nation MVP Cup in Manila from Sept. 11-13, where Gilas will go up against Lebanon, Chinese Taipei and a team from New Zealand.
The MVP Cup serves as Gilas’ last tournament, before plunging to action in the Fiba-Asia men’s championships.