For Gilas Pilipinas II pool members, crowd support will be a big factor when the national team shoots for a slot in the World Championship via the regional qualifier FIBA-Asia Championship scheduled August 1 to 11 here.
"I think the support of Filipinos will be very important for this year's FIBA-Asia," Jimmy Alapag said as the Nationals - to be handled by Chot Reyes - are preparing for the event where the top three finishers will go to Spain for the World Championship next year.
"We love the game of basketball so much here in our country, and now with the opportunity to have home court advantage, I just hope everyone will come and support the team because we'll do our best to make the country proud," added the onetime PBA MVP Alapag.
"Support is huge," said Gabe Norwood, who is also part of the 17-man pool from where the 'final 12' will be named by Reyes. "Gilas is going out not for us, but for the country. Knowing we have our fellow countrymen behind us will push us to play even harder."
The comments of Alapag and Norwood came in light as San Juan City Rep. JV Ejercito Estrada urges Filipinos to rally behind the Gilas Pilipinas considering that this is also the first time that the country will host the event in 40 years.
"This is a great opportunity for all of us to be united for a particular goal," said Ejercito Estrada, a basketball enthusiast who also plays golf. "And that is to motivate our national team to qualify for the world championship."
"If our players see that their countrymen are behind them 100 percent, I'm confident that they will be able to achieve their goal," added Ejercito Estrada, 43, a member of the Sports and Youth Committee of the House of Representatives.
According to Ejercito Estrada, this is also a great opportunity for local basketball fans to cheer the Nationals. The last Philippine Team to play in front of a hometown crowd was in 1973 ABC, or the Asian Basketball Confederation (now FIBA-Asia) when Robert Jaworski, Ramon Fernandez and Bogs Adornado led the squad to the title against South Korea.
"The country's hosting of the FIBA Asia Championship will surely put us back on the international basketball map. It will also give our athletes more exposure to international competitions," said Ejercito Estrada.
Aside from the 1973 squad, the Philippines - powered by Caloy Loyzaga - captured the title when Manila hosted the event's inaugural in 1960.
The son of former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada also extended his support to Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) as he offered "The Arena" in San Juan as second venue of FIBA-Asia.
"The local government of San Juan can prepare should the SBP chooses The Arena as a venue," said Ejercito Estrada.