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June Mar Fajardo wants to be part of 2023 Gilas team

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For long-time Gilas Pilipinas stalwart June Mar Fajardo, the Philippines, along with Indonesia and Japan, winning the 2023 FIBA World Cup hosting rights brings nothing but joy to the basketball-crazy Filipinos.

“Siyempre, nakakatuwa kasi tayo ang maghohost,” said the reigning four-time PBA Most Valuable Player, moments after steering San Miguel Beermen past Phoenix Fuel Masters, 104-96, in the league’s season opener Sunday.

“Para sa mga Pilipino ito, na dito gaganapin yung World Cup.”

When the three-nation bloc got the nod from the international federation, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas then knew that the real work has begun, that plans have sprung up for the six-year timeframe heading into the 2023 tilt.

But maybe the biggest problem is which players will make up the pool come 2023, since the majority of the current crop led by the Jayson Castro and Calvin Abueva might presumably be past their primes.

SBP chairman emeritus Manuel V. Pangilinan made it known that the team is looking for players aged around 26 to 32 years old for the 2023 Worlds. “We have to start training them (younger players) now,” said the business icon and sports patron.

If that is the case, Fajardo will be past the age bracket set by Pangilinan, as he will be 34 years old by then.

Despite that, the proud Cebuano let it be known that he still wants to don the country’s colors by that time in home soil. Moreover, he wants to help hone future Gilas towers like 6-foot-10 Filipino-Nigerian AJ Edu, who will be 23 years old by then, and 7-foot-1 (and stil growing) Kai Sotto, who will be 21 at the time.

“Oo siyempre. Gusto kong maglaro doon,” said the 6-foot-10 behemoth, who averaged 11.5 points — highlighted by a FIBA career-high of 17 markers versus Chinese Taipei — in the first window of the 2019 World Cup Asian Qualifiers last November.

Furthermore, the five-year pro is already looking forward for the Nationals’ preparations six years down the road.

“Kailangan lang practice ng maaga. Paghahandaan namin yung World Cup 2023,” sais Fajardo, who has been with the Gilas program since 2013 and has a FIBA Asia silver medal and a SEABA championship under his belt.

“Maganda iyon kasi hindi na basta-basta yung sasalihan natin.”

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OIC Willie Marcial insists ‘walang pagbabago’ in return of physical play in PBA

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The return of physicality in PBA games early this 43rd season has drawn raves from the coaches and the fans. At last, the matches are decided by the players themselves and not by the way the referees blow their whistles.

All the fans, the players, and ultimately the coaches have been longing for such, as physical play was something that was heavily controlled during the administration of former commissioner Chito Narvasa from 2015 to 2017.

“The games are being called a little differently now. They’re allowing a little bit more contact or a lot more contact,” said Meralco Bolts head coach Norman Black.

“I love it. I’m an old school guy so you can imagine. No harm, no foul.”

“The physicality’s good. It’s good for the game. It’s real men going at it,” opined Alaska Aces head coach Alex Compton on the other hand, seconding Black’s sentiments.

“I like the direction the league is going in with officiating.”

It is just one of the many positive changes that is currently taking place in the league under the management of officer-in-charge Willie Marcial. But he insisted that tweaks haven’t really been made in terms of calling games.

“Wala, pinapalaro lang namin. Walang pagbabago yun,” said the amiable league official Monday evening, when he paid Gilas Pilipinas a surprise visit at the Meralco Gym in Pasig City.

“Pinapalaro lang namin yung mga players.”

All that he’s doing, according to Marcial, is simply reminding the referees to be firm with their calls.

“Sinabihan ko lang yung mga referees na, ‘Manindigan kayo kung ano talaga.'”

With much more consistent calls comes the shorter duration of games compared to the past two seasons, as time-consuming reviews by referees and officials have not taken place in matches too often this season.

“Mas mabilis na (mga laro ngayon),” said Marcial, also the league’s former external affairs and communications head.

“One hour (and) 56 (minutes), one hour 52… ‘Di umaabot ng dalawang oras eh.”

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Abu Tratter plans to work his way to 2023 by continuing to do ‘the dirty work’

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Abu Tratter may have missed the jersey-giving ceremony that the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas held for the 23 for 2023 cadets last Monday but he made sure to help out when the current batch needed him the most.

After helping the Marinerong Pilipino Skippers win the Sinulog Cup in Cebu a week ago, the 6-foot-7 Filipino-American did not hesitate to heed Gilas’ call, as they were undermanned for their second session in preparation for the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.

“I think it’s just an honor to put on this jersey, to be able to represent our country, to possibly represent our country in the future. It’s an honor,” shared the Laguna-native.

The 25-year old, who just celebrated his birthday last January 9, admitted that he was in awe of the talent inside the Meralco Gym. Like a fan, he wanted to take a few photo ops with the senior team’s Gabe Norwood and June Mar Fajardo.

“Actually, at first I was just shocked to see June Mar and Gabe, just to be able to be in the midst of them,” gushed the former DLSU Green Archer, who will suit-up for Marinerong Pilipino in the D-League. “I even asked them for a picture, and hopefully they’ll still give me one.

“It’s just humbling, definitely.”

However, the work has only began for Tratter. With five years to go until the 2023 FIBA World Cup, the two-time UAAP champion plans to continue to do what he does best — be the same scrapper that he is and hopefully catch the eye of Gilas’ brass.

“I think just doing the dirty work, of course. Giving whatever the team needs, rebound or any steals, any thing a dirty player would need to pick up on,” he said.

“That’s how it is, garbage into gold. Get anything, sweep up anything and try to put it back.”

Moreover, he will continue answering the call when Gilas needs him, as he himself is learning a lot from being surrounded by the country’s topflight cagers.

“Whenever I can. I want to be able to absorb all the information coming from here and hopefully apply it in the D-League and hopefully apply it on future practices, future games.”

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2018 FIBA 3X3 World Cup

Terrence Romeo invited to join Pilipinas 3×3 for World Cup

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Stronger than ever

Scoring sensation Terrence Romeo has been invited by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas to join the Philippine team in the upcoming FIBA 3X3 World Cup, according to Philippine Star columnist Quinito Henson.

Romeo, who is currently out due to a right knee injury, has been in rehabilitation and is expected to miss the entire Philippine Cup campaign of the Globalport Batang Pier and the second window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.

“Baka sa second conference na ko makabalik kasi talagang gusto ko malakas ako pagbalik ko,” the 25-year-old shared during Chooks-to-Go Live last January 2.

SBP Executive Director Sonny Barrios personally met with the 6-foot guard, inviting him to be part of the Philippine team.

Romeo has plenty of 3×3 basketball experience under his belt.

Back in 2014, Romeo was part of the Manila West 3×3 team during the Manila Masters. He was adjudged as the tournament Most Valuable Player.

The 2018 3X3 World Cup will take place from June 8-12 at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.

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23 for 2023 cadet CJ Perez honored to help out Gilas

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Having had the chance to represent the Philippines in FIBA-sanctioned cagefests such the Asia Challenge Cup and the 3X3 All-Stars back in 2016, Lyceum Pirates star CJ Perez is no stranger to the international stage.

But the 24-year-old do-it-all swingman admits that he still gets overwhelmed whenever he sees his seniors — the stars and pillars of the program — in the team. “Nasusurprise [pa rin] ako,” he said. “Mga professionals eh.

“Na-istarstruck pa rin ako sa kanila.”

Perez said so when he finally made his return within Gilas’ realms last Monday night. The last time he was with the National Team was in August 2016, when the SBP built an amateur-laden batch of Gilas cagers that served as the transition from the 2016 Olympic Qualifiers squad to the 2017 SEABA team.

“Sobrang grateful ako (sa invitation),” said the talented six-foot-two guard, after practice at the Meralco Gym.

The reigning NCAA Most Valuable Player is back in the fold for Gilas as his name, along with young, up-and-coming stars, was included in the 23 for 2023 pool — a list of cagers projected to be the contingent for the Manila-hosted World Cup.

“Iniisip ko yun (FIBA World Cup 2023) simula magtawag sila ng practice. Actually nandoon na yung utak ko eh,” the Lyceum Pirate ace bared. “Kailangan ko lang mag work hard pa para makapasok dun sa lineup na yun, kahit malayo pa.

“It’s an honor para ma-represent yung country.”

Unlike in 2016, Perez graced the court and took part in drills with the veterans such as Gabe Norwood, Japeth Aguilar, June Mar Fajardo, among others. With those type of players around him, he feels that the lessons he can get will be limitless.

“Oo sobra. Kahit kanino naman (matututo ka talaga),” Perez shared. “(At tsaka) Dito parang more on sa mental. ‘Di na iniisip yung conditioning kasi may ibang teams naman sila so about sa mental toughness [talaga].”

For now, the 23 for 2023 cadets are already working out not just for familiarity, but also to help the seniors in preparing for the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers this February.

“Sobrang happy and grateful na nakakatulong ako sa kanila kahit sa simpleng practice lang.”

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