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2019 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers

Tough SMART Gilas cuts still part of pool versus Chinese-Taipei

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Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times Tough SMART Gilas cuts still part of pool versus Chinese-Taipei 2019 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers Basketball Gilas Pilipinas News  Raymond Almazan Mac Belo Chot Reyes Carl Cruz 2019 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers Group B

When SMART Gilas Pilipinas head coach Chot Reyes announced the final lineup that will go up against Japan on Thursday morning, he opened up his statement in a different way. He did not announce the players who made it one by one, instead disclosing the three “tough” cuts he had to make.

“We decided on the 12-man roster that’s going to play in tomorrow’s game. And so we decided to sit out Carl [Cruz], Mac [Belo], and Raymund [Almazan] for tomorrow’s game,” said Reyes.

Out of the three, 6-foot-7 big man Raymond Almazan had to be the toughest cut he had to make. During the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup, the Rain or Shine Elasto Painter was Gilas’ energy guy, diving for loose balls and throwing down thunderous jams that turned the momentum of Gilas’ games. The 28-year-old averaged 3.8 points and 1.8 rebounds in 12 minutes of game time during the tournament.

However, disaster struck the team last Sunday when Almazan, during a drill, landed awkwardly on his left ankle that resulted in severe swelling. He did not participate during the team’s final session in Manila last Monday.

On the other hand, Carl Cruz has been this batch’s loyal soldier. Back in June to August, the 26-year-old made the rounds with Gilas, playing in the Jones Cup, the Asia Cup, and the Southeast Asian Games.

Lastly, Mac Belo — who, just like Cruz is part of the 2016 Gilas cadets program — has yet to play with the seniors team in a FIBA-sanctioned contest. The 24-year-old has yet to gain his full form since a meniscus tear on his left knee last April.

“I just want to tell everybody that we came here as a 15-man team. Those three guys not playing tomorrow doesn’t mean they’re not part of the team,” Reyes expressed.

“They’re still very much part of the team, entitled to everything and all the privileges that everybody else has.”

Moreover, the troika can still be called up to duty for SMART Gilas’ second game in the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers on Monday, November 27 against Chinese-Taipei in Manila.

The deadline for the lineup for SMART Gilas’ first home game will be on Sunday, November 26.

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