GILAS coach/program director Chot Reyes — SBP

Gilas without two-time best point guard Jayson Castro

GILAS Pilipinas relishes a chance to scout and prepare as New Zealand and India take the center stage in the opener of 2023 International Basketball Federation (FIBA) World Cup Asian Qualifiers Group A games at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Philippine team, which has been reduced to a spectator for now after the withdrawal of its opening day opponent South Korea, will not play until tomorrow against India at 3 p.m.

India, led by NBA G League standout Princepal Singh, and New Zealand lock horns also at 3 p.m. today before meeting anew on Monday for the last day of the window.

Gilas for its part, will take a break on Saturday before plunging back into action against New Zealand on Sunday at 7 p.m.

The Nationals were supposed to play a dreaded four-game schedule in five days until Monday, but South Korea pulled out at the last minute due to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) issues in its squad before departure to the Philippines.

Gilas is expected to name its final 12-man roster before each game against India and New Zealand from the 15-man pool it brought to the Novotel-Smart Araneta Coliseum bubble earlier this week.

Six players from coach Chot Reyes’ TnT Tropang Giga banner the cast in Roger Pogoy, Troy Rosario, Poy Erram, Kelly Williams, Gab Banal and Kib Montalbo.

Two-time Best Point Guard in Asia Jayson Castro is the notable absence from the list that also has Japan B.League stalwarts Thirdy Ravena and Dwight Ramos along with naturalized player Ange Kouame.

Young guns Juan Gomez de Liaño, Lebron Lopez, Will Navarro, Jaydee Tungcab, Tzaddy Rangel and NorthPort ace Robert Bolick complete the pool.

“Our preparation is our health to stay focused mentally and emotionally for whatever the schedule is,” said Mr. Reyes. — John Bryan Ulanday