Prospective Gilas members brace for battle


    WITH the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers set this month under a bubble set-up in Manama, Bahrain, it appears Gilas Pilipinas is likely to field an amateur-backed squad.

    Aside from big man Isaac Go, guard Rey Suerte, wingman Allyn Bulanadi, and twins Matt and Mike Nieto, all Gilas special draftees last year; and wingman Jaydee Tungcab, collegiate standouts Kobe Paras of University of the Philippines, reigning NCAA MVP Calvin Oftana of San Beda University, Ateneo guard Dave Ildefonso, and brothers Javi and Juan Gomez de Liaño are likely to be named to the pool for the qualifiers.

    Paras, Oftana, Ildefonso and the Gomez de Liaños posted on their respective social media accounts photos of their sneakers, apparently hinting that they are preparing for training.

    “Bubble ready,” Ildefonso wrote on his Instagram account @ildavefonso.

    Paras, the Gomez de Liaño brothers, and Ildefonso were all members of the previous Gilas training pool.

    Juan Gomez de Liaño was included in the final 12-man line-up and played in the Filipino dribblers’ 100-70 beating of Indonesia last Feb. 23 under interim coach Mark Dickel.

    Gilas reportedly will hold a bubble training at the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna.

    The training, however, has yet to begin pending the green light from the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

    Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas program director Tab Baldwin earlier ruled out PBA players from suiting up for Gilas since they are playing in the PBA Philippine Cup bubble in Angeles City, Pampanga.

    Gilas tackles Thailand on Nov. 26; South Korea two days later, and Thailand anew on Nov. 30, according to a schedule posted on the FIBA website.

    The SBP has yet to name who will call the shots in the qualifiers, although former PBA champion coach and Gilas deputy Jong Uichico will likely be tapped as a member of the coaching staff.

    The nationals also have no naturalized player at the moment, but Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara has filed last Oct. 22 Senate Bill 1892 seeking to grant Philippine citizenship to the Blue Eagles’ 6-foot-10 center Angelo Kouame of Ivory Coast.

    Gilas’ match against Thailand last Feb. 20 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum was cancelled due to the threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.