GILAS Pilipinas bolstered its training pool anew with the addition of teen star Lebron Lopez for the first window of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) World Cup Asian Qualifiers according to coach Chot Reyes.
Mr. Reyes said the 18-year-old Mr. Lopez immediately attended the Gilas training on Monday at the Moro Lorenzo Sports Center in Quezon City more than a week before the tilt on Feb. 24-28 at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Mr. Lopez joined Thirdy Ravena, Dwight Ramos, Juan Gomez de Liaño, Robert Bolick and the core of the TnT Tropang Giga as reinforcements for Gilas that is reduced to a few cadets in Will Navarro, Jaydee Tungcab and Tzaddy Rangel.
Naturalized player Ange Kouame is also in the fray as Gilas races against time before its collision against South Korea, New Zealand and India in Group A.
For Mr. Lopez, it will be his return to national team duties after suiting up in the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers under former mentor Tab Baldwin.
He played in one game of the last window in Clark, tallying eight points, five rebounds and a steal as Gilas trounced Indonesia to complete a 6-0 sweep.
In the UAAP juniors, Mr. Lopez made a name for the Ateneo Blue Eaglets with averages of 16.0 points, 9.2 rebounds and 3.0 blocks en route to a Mythical Team citation.
The high-flying sensation, however, opted to forego his remaining eligibility last year by going pro in the United States’ Overtime Elite (OTE) league, where he is yet to play due to visa issues. — John Bryan Ulanday