ON Friday, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) released the names of players making up the pool for the Gilas team seeing action at the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers later this month in Manama, Bahrain.
The 16-man pool of amateur and collegiate stars, the SBP said, was assembled with the end view of preparing them for the long haul, in line with the sports body’s vision of having more available talents for future competitions, including the 2023 FIBA World Cup where the Philippines is one of the hosts.
Part of the group of players in consideration for the Asia Cup window which will begin play on Nov. 26 are Kobe Paras, Juan and Javi Gomez De Liano and Jaydee Tungcab of the University of the Philippines, Dwight Ramos, Dave Ildefonso and Will Navarro of Ateneo, Justine Baltazar of La Salle, and Calvin Oftana and Kenmark Carino of San Beda.
They join Gilas Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) draftees Matt and Mike Nieto, Rey Suerte, Isaac Go and Allyn Bulanadi.
Angelo Kouame of Ateneo is also included as a naturalized player, but whether he gets to play is to be determined as his status is still being deliberated on by lawmakers.
Coaching the team will be the group headed by SBP program director Tab Baldwin, Jong Uichico and Boyet Fernandez.
“In forming the team, we took into consideration everything, including the availability of PBA players,” said Ryan Gregorio, special assistant to the SBP president (Al Panlilio), on The Chasedown program on Saturday.
“But we know the kind of sacrifices they (pro players) made inside the PBA bubble. So. we decide to give them ample time to rest, not only their body but also their minds. And this is a great opportunity for us to restart our idea of relaunching our program. We drafted a lot of collegiate players entering the PBA and also this is a good showcase for them together with other college athletes,” he added.
But despite having young players in tow, Mr. Gregorio underscored that the goal in the Asia Cup window is to compete and win.
Currently, the Philippines sports a 1-0 record in Group A of the qualifiers after defeating Indonesia, 100-70, in February, behind Korea (2-0).
Gilas is set to face Thailand (0-1) twice in the November window (Nov. 26 and 30) and Korea once (Nov. 28).
The latter, however, made it known it would not be sending a team to Bahrain to compete because of the ongoing concern with the coronavirus pandemic.
“We still don’t know what the verdict will be [on the Korea decision), whether it will be forfeiture or reset [of the game]. But on our part, we are just making sure we will be represented in the tournament as advised by our chairman emeritus Manny V. Pangilinan. We will play Thailand twice and Korea once. Hopefully, we win those,” said Mr. Gregorio.
The team has already gotten approval from the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to hold training at the INSPIRE Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna, as part of its preparations. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo