MANILA, Philippines – Members of the Gilas Pilipinas squad were surprised by Larry Fonacier's exit from the training pool even as they make their final push in their preparations for the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain.
Fonacier, who was part of Gilas' “Magic 12” that won silver in the FIBA Asia Championship, has to skip the team’s campaign in the world championship to focus on recovering from his injuries.
“Medyo nalungkot nga kami. Pero yung desisyon naman n’ya naiintidihan naman natin. Naiintindihan naman namin ‘yung injuries,” said his Gilas teammate Gary David.
He said that the rest of the team will have to make up for Fonacier’s absence, and will need to fill up his spot in the perimeter area.
“Ang turingan namin magkakapatid, kung meron man nagkukulang na iba, nag-iistep up kaming lahat.”
Gabe Norwood said that he admires Fonacier’s professionalism. He said his Gilas teammate did not hesitate to give up his spot for the sake of their campaign in the FIBA World and the Asian Games.
“It's tough to hear on last minute especially after he did a great job for us in the past,” said the Rain or Shine player.
“He puts a lot of confidence in us to pick of the slack, we appreciate the honesty. He could have been selfish, he could say 'I still wanna be there even when I know I'm not 100%' [but] he did the professional thing,” added Norwood.
Fonacier’s exit boosted rumors that Paul Lee might take his spot in the final lineup, given Lee’s impressive performance in the recent FIBA Asia Cup.
Lee averaged 14.75 points during their first four games in that tournament and buried the crucial free throws against China to send Gilas to a bronze-medal finish.
LA Tenorio said they aren’t sure about who’s going to make it in the final line up for the FIBA World Cup. But if Lee is called up, Tenorio said he will welcome it.
“Si Paul Lee ang papalit daw [kay Fonacier], ‘di man namin sure kung siya, pero kung si Paul Lee man ang papalit malaking bagay yun. We saw it naman na si Paul Lee can really fit with the system of Coach Chot [Reyes],” said Tenorio.
“I think malaking bagay din na maka makapasok si Paul, very versatile player, marami siyang pwedeng magawa.” -- With a report from TJ Manotoc, ABS-CBN News