THERE seems to be a bit of clarity for Gilas Pilipinas in the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers, at least on two important fronts: the squad will be built around collegiate standouts, and coach Jong Uichico will likely be part of the coaching staff.
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas program director Tab Baldwin refused to name names yet but said several amateur stars have verbally committed to the team.
“We do have some players that have agreed to be part of it,” Baldwin said last Tuesday in an episode of Sports Page.
“Until we can announce a roster, I don’t think we should do things differently than we do at other times if we can avoid it,” he added.
The FIBA announced last month the next two windows of the qualifiers set in November and in February next year will be played under bubble-type environments.
Pro league players are unlikely to be tapped since they are playing in the PBA Philippine Cup bubble in Angeles City, Pampanga.
“We don’t expect the PBA bubble to be able to be broken in any way. So, you know at this point, we certainly are ruling out the inclusion of PBA players and coaches,” explained Baldwin.
“Now, that means that we have to either look at players overseas, and that are domiciled overseas, which again are going to be very difficult because they more than likely have schedules going on right now, or look into our college ranks which is probably the most likely and the one that coach Ryan (Gregorio) and I are spending most of our time working on right now.”
Only six players in big man Isaac Go, guard Rey Suerte, wingman Allyn Bulanadi, and twins Matt and Mike Nieto, all Gilas special draftees, and wingman Jaydee Tungcab are available for now.
High-flying wingman Thirdy Ravena can also be added to the pool but his status is uncertain due to his coming stint as import for San-en NeoPhoenix in the Japan B. League.
SBP special assistant to the president Ryan Gregorio said Uichico should be part of the team’s brain trust.
“If there is one name that we both agreed on, coach Tab (Baldwin) and myself, together with the hierarchy of the SBP, it’s coach Jong (Uichico),” Gregorio said.
“With his experience, he should be part of the coaching staff.”
Uichico, 58, is a former three-time national team tactician. He last handled Sinag Pilipinas in the 2017 Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur.
The current head of the SBP Coaches Academy, Uichico served as deputy to former Gilas strategist Chot Reyes.