Gilas Pilipinas had a hectic schedule that started last May with the SEABA Championship and recently culminated in the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup and the 29th Southeast Asian Games. That stretch not only tested the players themselves, but also the capabilities of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas to gather players and see how many club teams were willing to lend their players to the national team pool.
But with the rigorous and tricky schedule of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers, a tournament that has a home-and-away format, national team head coach Chot Reyes is hoping to form a pool of players, just like what the first iteration of the Gilas program was like or what Bounty Agro Ventures Incorporated president Ronald Mascarinas said last July.
“It’s having an expanded pool so that we have guys who are not in the PBA. So that when scheduling conflicts arise, we always have choices,” Reyes disclosed on Thursday afternoon during the Homecoming for SEA Games gold medalists Gilas Pilipinas and Nikko Huelgas.
“Hopefully, in doing so, we’re able to train up enough players to form a competitive group even though there are complications with the pro leagues. It’s not only the SEA Games, but of all the tournaments in the run-up.”
During the build-up to the SEA Games, Gilas enlisted non-pro players like Kiefer Ravena, Kobe Paras, Raymar Jose, and Bobby Ray Parks, Jr. This time around, according to multiple sources closely monitoring the situation, the SBP is looking to tap Jeron Teng while waiting for Robert Bolick and CJ Perez to finish their commitments with their respective schools.
“We have a list of players (in mind). We know everyone who has potential, who are coming out, but we don’t want to touch those who are in college now. We know the problems that they will have in college teams,” Reyes furthered.
“We’re keeping tabs on everyone who we think are worthy, but right now, we want to focus on the guys who have no collegiate obligations.”
If this comes into fruition, the pool will just be the first step for the national team aspirants, as they still have to fight for their spot, based on their performances in practice and the invitational tournaments Gilas joins.
“Yung planning, the foresight that we had to send them to the Jones Cup, we reaped it dito sa SEA Games. If they play well in the minor tournaments, that prepares them to play well in the major tournaments,” Reyes closed.
“Hopefully, we keep building until we get to the final objective which is to qualifying for the World Cup and be the best Asian team.”
Still, this plan is just in its initial stages.