Cramming rears ugly ahead anew for Gilas

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    NEW Year but same old problem?

    Cramming is rearing its ugly ahead as Gilas Pilipinas begins its preparations for the first window of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers.

    The nationals, who are set to tackle Thailand on the road on Feb. 20 before hosting Indonesia three days later, still don’t have a coach.

    Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Al Panlilio said Gilas will likely have an interim coach at least for the February qualifiers.

    “We are not ready to announce the full-time coach for February for sure. But the next window is November,” said Panlilio.

    “It gives us time now to set up the right coach moving forward. It has to be a full-time coach for the program,” he added.

    Mirroring the setup of the all-pro Gilas squad that won the gold medal in the 30th Southeast Asian Games late last year in Manila, a tactician from the pro league might get the interim post like what Ginebra strategist Tim Cone did.

    “All coaches are always in consideration but they have commitments to the ball clubs that they have today. Ang usapan kasi with Tim (Cone) is just the SEA Games. Now, he is also busy with the finals. But it’s time to start the journey to 2023,” explained Panlilio.

    “The interim are the coaches in the PBA. I think it has to be a full-time coach at the end of the day. Maybe the interim is one of the existing coaches we know today who’ll just do it for the window.”

    The SBP is also looking to come up with a pool of naturalized players who will replace Andray Blatche.

    “Andray (Blatche) has helped us a lot in the past but I think it’s time we move on from him,” said Panlilio. “My objective is to have two to three names as a pool for naturalized players to lessen the risk kung magka-injury man. So, that’s a process also.”

    Five players were selected in the special Gilas draft last year, namely, Isaac Go, Rey Suerte, Allyn Bulanadi, and twins Matt and Mike Nieto who will make up the team in the first window. Former Ateneo star Thirdy Ravena and University of the Philippines defensive stopper JD Tungcab were also added to the pool that is expected to be backstopped by pros.

    Hawaii-based 7-foot Sage Tolentino, 16, and 7-foot-2 Kai Sotto, who is training with The Skills Factory in Atlanta, and 6-foot-10 AJ Edu, who is recovering from an ACL injury he suffered in the Under-19 World Cup last year, are also being recruited by the SBP to add the much needed ceiling to the pool.

    “We should be starting right now, but maybe in the latter part of the month or a week we can start the ball rolling and identify certain names who we can put in the pool,” said Panlilio.

    “(We’re) playing Thailand and Indonesia. I think we can form a team that will be competitive. The next window (in November) is Korea and Thailand, so that’s the more critical window for us where we feel that, really, the program should be in full strength.”

    Panlilio admitted that Gilas cannot go back to its old ways of forming a team with a tourney fast-approaching.

    “We have to develop players. Ang mangyayari is the same,” he said.

    “Preparation time won’t be there kasi tumatakbo pa iyong tournament. Two weeks lang nabigay kay Tim Cone, two weeks lang after the semis niya nakuha iyong team. Hindi na pwede iyong ganoon. We saw the weakness of that formula already.” – Michael Jugado