BEING among just a handful does not automatically guarantee PBA players slots in the final Gilas Pilipinas team for the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers’ third window next month in Clark, Pampanga.
Guesting in the Power & Play vodcast hosted by Noli Eala last Saturday, SBP’s Special Assistant to the president Ryan Gregorio said each of the six pros currently in the Gilas pool training in Calamba, Laguna, must fight for inclusion in the last 12.
“What is important to understand is, when they were invited, they were are handpicked by our coaches, led by coach Tab Baldwin, and they were briefed when they entered the bubble that nobody is assured of a slot in our final 12,” Gregorio pointed out.
“So they really have to fight for it, they have to make sure that they are worthy of the slot given to them,” added Gregorio. “So talagang labanan pa rin iyan.”
Baldwin and his staff composed of SBP Coaches Commission head Jong Uichico, Boyet Fernandez, Sandy Arespachochaga, Caloy Garcia, Norman Black, and strength and conditioning coach Andrei Tolentino have begun the process of picking the right pieces, Gregorio said.
“What is important again is we are not just looking at the best players in our country,” he added.
“What we’re looking for are players who can fit in the best. And as far as the coaches are concerned there is a specific role that each player must play in order for us to be very successful.”
Only Kiefer Ravena, CJ Perez, Troy Rosario, Roger Pogoy, Justin Chua and first-timer Raul Soyud showed up in Calamba, with some of those in the SBP’s wishlist begging off for one reason or another. Some other pros may yet enter the bubble and reports are rife Kai Sotto is set to take a leave from his G-League team just to join Gilas.
Gregorio said the SBP is not one to pine for whoever is absent.
“When you get invited, it is purely voluntary in nature. Meaning, if you have reasons, we’re not gonna dive into it, we’re not gonna analyze it too much. We’re gonna move forward right away,” stated Gregorio.
“All the reasons presented to us were pretty much acceptable,” Gregorio also said. “Some of them are stuck in the US, the others are nursing injuries, the others have medical emergencies, and all.”
Focusing on who are present than nitpicking on those who are absent should be the order of the day, according to Gregorio. “Ang sinasabi ko nga parati, let us not discuss the players who are not in the bubble,” he said.
“Rather, let us talk about the players who are in the bubble, making huge sacrifices personally so that they can serve our flag and country.”
Baldwin is ready to make do with what he has, including assembling a team made up mostly of amateurs.
With the pros inside the Inspire Sports Academy Complex are Nieto twins Matt and Mike, Gomez De Liano brothers Juan and Javi, Rey Suerte, Dave Ildefonso, Justine Baltazar, Calvin Oftana, Kemark Carino, William Navarro and naturalization candidate Angelo Kouame.
“We have to understand that there is a plan instituted by coach Tab Baldwin, meaning there is a short-term plan, there’s a mid-term plan, and there is also a plan going to 2023,” Gregorio pointed out.
“What we want is just to establish a lot of things, mainly basketball culture, teamwork, camaraderie, just playing together, being with one another, and of course the most important aspects, being the technical stuffs. The offensive concepts, as well as the defensive schemes so that we can be very successful in the long haul.”
Gilas takes on South Korea on Feb. 18, Indonesia on the 20th, and Korea again on the 22nd.
The Filipinos are currently on top of Group A in the qualifiers with a 3-0 slate and need just another win to advance to the next stage.