Both the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas and the Philippine Basketball Association are set to discuss once more the participation of Gilas Pilipinas in the league as a guest team.
SBP executive director Sonny Barrios said that the two major basketball stakeholders have yet to determine whether the youth-laden national team will take part in a conference, or in a special pocket tournament instead.
“Nag-usap kami ni Comm. Willie [Marcial] on Gilas being able to play in the PBA, whether it’s going to be in the conference or we will come up with a pocket tournament,” he told Radyo5’s Power & Play, hosted by Noli Eala Saturday.
Gilas was invited anew by the PBA last February to gain more exposure as part of the league’s commitment to further strengthen the program.
And that is definitely a big help for the present-day flag bearers, for tournaments here and abroad — which will surely help speed up their maturation process — have been hard to come by due to the ongoing pandemic.
The pool currently has 2019 Gilas draftees Isaac Go, Nieto twins Matt and Mike, Allyn Bulanadi, and Rey Suerte.
William Navarro, Jaydee Tungcab, Jordan Heading, and Tzaddy Rangel, on the other hand, are set to be included in the roster through another special Gilas draft set to be held in the 2021 PBA Rookie Draft on March 14.
Cadets such as Dwight Ramos; Juan and Javi Gomez de Liano; Justine Baltazar; and Ange Kouame, to name a few, are allowed to reinforce Gilas in the PBA provided that they procure a special guest license from GAB.
This isn’t the first time that the PBA opened its doors for the Gilas program per se. The league included Gilas in the 2009-10 Philippine Cup, where their matches got reduced to tune-ups due to the intensity of the games.
It was strongly evident when the Nationals faced Burger King in their debut when the Whoppers of fiery coach Yeng Guiao already got whistled for four flagrant fouls just in the first half alone.
That game where BK won, 115-105, however, was marred by the incident between Wynne Arboleda and a fan. It was said that the latter cursed at the former, thus the reaction that led to his suspension for the rest of the season.
With their games turned to non-bearing ones, the wins of Burger King, Talk N Text, and Barangay Ginebra over them got nullified. In the end, Gilas collected three victories in nine outings.
Despite that, Gilas, already with a few international stints, returned to the league and saw action in the 2011 Commissioner’s Cup, coming in lieu of Barako Bull, who took a leave of absence from the league.
Gilas went on to finish the elimination round as the second seed with a 7-2 card to qualify straight to the semifinals, where they bowed to Nate Brumfield and eventual runners-up Gin Kings in the best-of-five affair 3-1.
Gilas has also taken part in PBA All-Star Games, first in 2013 and 2014 and then from 2017 to 2018, when the midseason showcase was held for a week as the league held games in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.
It isn’t just Gilas who benefited from the PBA’s help as national teams have also been invited by the league in the past. The most known of them was the Northern Cement crew, which even won the 1985 Reinforced Conference title.
And back in the 2002 Governors’ Cup, the national pool was divided into Selecta-RP and Hapee-RP teams to gear up for the Busan Asian Games. Both squads ended up with identical 4-7 records and missed the playoffs.
The PBA has also set up special tournaments for the Nationals, just like in 1998 with the Centennial Cup. There, the Tim Cone-mentored Philippine Centennial Team won just once in eight games.
Five years later, the Invitational Championship was made, with the RP Team supported by Cebuana Lhuillier taking part along with teams from China, Yugoslavia, and South Korea. The Filipino dribblers had a 1-3 card.
According to Barrios, no matter how the set-up will be, what’s certain is that the PBA and the SBP want Gilas to play.
“Maliwanag na gusto namin magkaroon ng something in that nature.”