UNDERMANNED Gilas Pilipinas team — FIBA

Kai Sotto not available according to Chot Reyes

GILAS Pilipinas is eyeing Japan B.League mainstays Thirdy Ravena and Ray Parks and one or two big men to reinforce the youth-laden squad dealing heavily with manpower shortage ahead of its campaign in the coming International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Asia Cup.

Towering Kai Sotto would have been a perfect choice for that gaping hole in the middle, too, but his stint in the July 12-24 hoopfest in Indonesia looks unlikely, per Gilas program director Chot Reyes.

The Nationals embarked on last week’s FIBA World Cup (WC) Asian Qualifiers with a shorthanded crew. They fielded 11 players in a 106-60 loss to New Zealand and then minus Dave Ildefonso (knee), were reduced to 10 men in a 79-63 romp over India at the MOA Arena.

Mr. Ildefonso, like naturalized player Ange Kouame who sustained an ACL injury last month, will surely miss the Asian meet, further depleting the team’s personnel.

“We are hoping to have Thirdy Ravena and Ray Parks in the team,” Gilas coach Nenad Vučinić said.

Gilas Pilipinas’ undersized frontliners led by Geo Chiu, Carl Tamayo and Will Navarro will have to essentially fend for themselves with the NBA hopeful Mr. Sotto not likely to come.

“Mukhang malabo na,” said Mr. Reyes, baring that the team has reached out to Mr. Sotto’s camp but hasn’t received any reply. “He (Mr. Sotto) has decided to do some other things and forgo the FIBA Asia Cup.”

Gilas may have to look at Mr. Reyes’ PBA ballclub, the TnT Tropang Giga, for added muscle inside the paint like Poy Erram or Kelly Williams. TnT’s elimination round assignment in the ongoing PBA Philippine Cup will end on July 10, freeing the potential reinforcements for the Jakarta trip.

Mr. Vučinić’s undermanned team split its two assignments in the WC qualifiers, surrendering to the Tall Blacks in Auckland, 106-60, then rebounding with a 79-63 romp over the Indians at the MOA Arena.

Mr. Reyes said the triumph over India will be a big boost to the youngsters.

“I think that’s very important for the players to get the feeling of the WC,” he said.

“A big positive is to continue sticking with what they’ve been practicing. They ran the same things that they did in New Zealand (in the India game), so it’s important for us to continue seeing progress.” — Olmin Leyba