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Pangilinan reminds Gilas fans to stay optimistic despite tough OQT group

Dennis Acosta (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

PASAY--Gilas Pilipinas is grouped with France and New Zealand in the first round of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena on July 5-10.

Many find the Frenchmen and the Kiwis tough assignments for Gilas with some even touting the group as the "group of death" considering the Nationals' capability to make a gallant stand as per their FIBA World Cup campaign.

But outgoing SBP president Manny Pangilinan called on the fans to keep on thinking positively about Gilas' bid for one of the three remaining seats to the Rio De Janeiro Olympics basketball competition.

"We should think positively [that Gilas will not] just make the semifinals but make it to the Rio Olympics. Yun ang goal. We should try for it," Pangilinan told some reporters on Saturday night after he received an award for his exemplifying efforts in leading Philippine basketball's renaissance at the Marriott Grand Ballroom.

Gilas actually did fare well against both France and New Zealand in their recent friendlies.

The team that played in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship in Pasay pushed the Kiwis to the limit before conceding a one-point defeat.

On the other hand, the 2014 FIBA World Cup team, which was basically the 2013 FIBA Asia team only that Andray Blatche replaced Marcus Douthit, led the Frenchmen at some points of the game before losing by a relatively close margin in a pocket tournament hosted by the latter.

"We should try to organize the best team we can. We should form the team as early as we can. We should prepare for [the OQT] as early as we can," Pangilinan bared what he wanted for Gilas in the next few months.

Pangilinan, however, said that only God can tell if the team goes to Brazil in August or not.

"We leave it up to God," he said.

Asked on who he wants to be his successor at his SBP post, Pangilinan, who also heads PLDT, the co-presenter of the awarding event, replied, "We need a young and energetic president, but I will still be behind SBP in giving support."

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno