Gilas Pilipinas, the Philippines men's national basketball team, are the favorites to win the 2017 Southeast Asia Basketball Association (SEABA) championship and qualify for the FIBA Asia Cup later this year to be held in Lebanon.
The 2017 SEABA championship has no knockout stages and the team with the best record after the seven-day tournament wins the title. Besides Gilas Pilipinas, other countries participating in the tournament include Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
The reigning ASEAN champions have the home court advantage since the 2017 SEABA tournament will be held in Manila from May 12 to 18. Gilas Pilipinas open the competition on Friday, May 12, against Myanmar at the Araneta Coliseum at 7 p.m. PST.
The Philippines have won seven of the 11 SEABA championships since it was first held in 1994. Gilas Pilipinas would have been nine-time champions but they were suspended in 2005 and they did not participate in the 2013 games.Gilas Pilipinas are the arguably the best team in the tournament and experts believe that they will have an easy time in their game against Myanmar. According to Sports 5, Myanmar has no chance to upset the Philippines because they have not improved their basketball program. The only advantage the Burmese have is that there are no scouting reports on any of their players.
Myanmar's roster is full of players under 23 and their tallest player is 21-year-old Aye Kaung Myat. They are coached by Singaporean Ten Kok Heng. The last tournament they participated in was the 2015 Southeast Asian Games in Singapore where they did not win any games, and they lost by an average of 50.5 points.
"There is promise and upside, no doubt about that, and Burmese have a legit cornerstone in [6-foot-6] Aye Kaung Myat and if he stays healthy, he could be the centerpiece in a program that might make inroads within the upcoming decade. However, for this SEABA they will be all countries' workout game and that is just blatantly pointing out the obvious fact that they are presently not at par with the other seven countries in the competition."On the other hand, Gilas Pilipinas boasts a roster full of top players from the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA). They will be led by one of the best point guards in Asia, Jayson Castro William, and 2015 FIBA Asia Championship breakout star Terrence Romeo.
Naturalized big man and former NBA star Andray Blatche also returns to the Gilas Pilipinas lineup. In an interview with ABS-CBN News, Blatche insisted that Gilas Pilipinas should remain focused despite being favored to win the 2017 SEABA championship.
"When everybody expects you to win, you still have to come out and perform, you still have to come out and win, you still have to come out and compete. I don't want us to go out there, taking it that we'll have it easy. We're quite sure that a lot of the teams, they think that they have a chance of knocking us down. We gotta stay focused, and we still gotta compete."Other players in the 12-man Gilas Pilipinas roster include three-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo, Japeth Aguilar, Calvin Abueva, Matthew Wright, Raymond Almazan, Allein Maliksi, Troy Rosario, Roger Pogoy, and Jiovani Jalalon.
And to take them to the next level, Gilas Pilipinas is going to be armed with an "Agimat" straight from Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James. Players of Gilas Pilipinas are going to wear Filipino heritage-inspired LeBron 14 Agimat shoes all throughout the 2017 SEABA championships.Before Gilas Pilipinas takes on Myanmar on Monday, Indonesia and Singapore battle it out in the first game, while Malaysia and Thailand follow suit. Gilas Pilipinas vs. Myanmar is going to be the main event of Day 1 of the 2017 SEABA championships that will surely be watched by thousands in attendance and millions around the world.
Gilas Pilipinas vs. Myanmar can be watched online via live streaming at Sports5 Live on Friday, 7 a.m. EST and 7 p.m. PST.
[Featured Image by Stanley Chou/Getty Images]