MANILA, Philippines – When the Philippines plays in the FIBA Asia Championships in July next year, the Gilas roster may be different from the lineups for the recent Jones Cup and the coming FIBA Asia Cup in Tokyo. Nothing is set in stone and coach Chot Reyes said yesterday he wants to keep his options open.
There will be spots waiting for Talk ‘N’ Text mainstays Jayson Castro, Ryan Reyes and Kelly Williams who are all familiar with Reyes’ system. If San Mig Coffee’s Marc Pingris is available, Reyes said he’ll likely make room for the former FEU star. The choices will depend on who’s healthy, which players are able to adjust quickly to each other, who’s ready to sacrifice a lot of practice hours and who’s fit to endure the grueling grind of international play.
PBA players named in the national pool were asked to submit letters of commitment but Reyes said he could understand why some candidates hesitated because of injuries, rehab treatment, rest from an exhausting season and family obligations. Pingris, Alex Cabagnot, Arwind Santos, Marcio Lassiter and James Yap didn’t enlist but Reyes said he was informed that there was no policy from their PBA teams restricting them from signing up. Pingris personally spoke to Reyes and said he would be ready if called to play for Gilas.
San Miguel Corp. director of sports Noli Eala confirmed that the five players were not prohibited from joining Gilas. He pointed to Enrico Villanueva, then with Barangay Ginebra, as a San Miguel group player who saw action in the Jones Cup and is in the lineup for the FIBA Asia Cup. L.A. Tenorio, recently traded to Ginebra, will also play in the FIBA Asia Cup.
“We submitted the names for the national pool to the PBA Board,” said Reyes. “We left it up to the players to decide whether or not to submit letters of commitment. Of course, we’d like to open the pool to players who’re interested to join. We were told to write the players individually and we’re ready to do it. We’ll consult with commissioner (Chito) Salud on the next step to take. Participating in the FIBA Asia Cup is part of the build-up for the FIBA Asia Championships. We’re forming an all-inclusive team.”
Reyes said the ultimate goal is to qualify for the FIBA World Cup on Aug. 30-Sept. 14, 2014, in Spain. “We’re not totally dismissing the Olympic dream,” he explained. “But our focus right now is the World Cup. The top three finishers in the FIBA Asia Championships will earn tickets to the World Cup so that’s our objective. We can’t think too far ahead because we still don’t know what will happen in the 2016 Olympics, if they’ll put an age limit of 23 for basketball or increase the number of participating countries or add a 3-on-3 event with an age limit. All we know is the top three placers in the FIBA Asia Cup will automatically qualify for the FIBA Asia Championships, meaning if we make it, we won’t need to qualify via the SEABA Championships.”
The Philippines is bidding to host the FIBA Asia Championships next year and the FIBA Asia Congress will decide where to stage the World Cup qualifiers in Tokyo on Sept. 18. Japan is also bidding to host even if Tokushima was the 2007 site. China hosted the last two FIBA Asia Championships in Tianjin in 2009 and Wuhan last year. Manila hasn’t hosted the biennial competition since 1973. The Philippines won its last FIBA Asia title under coach Ron Jacobs in 1985. Last year, the Philippines took fourth place – its best finish since claiming the same spot in 1987.
Reyes said Marcus Douthit will remain at the forefront of Gilas’ charge even as talks are ongoing to enlist Denver Nuggets center JaVale McGee as a naturalized player for the future. “After JaVale signed a humongous deal with Denver, we’re now not sure how to proceed because if he plays for us, we’ll have to cover the insurance premium for his four-year $44 million contract and that’s a big amount,” said Reyes. “JaVale hasn’t changed his mind. He’s fine with the idea of playing for the Philippines. We’ll just have to figure out what it takes to suit him up.”
Reyes said the new FIBA rule requiring players with the birth right of dual citizenship to claim two nationalities before turning 16 has put the recruitment of Fil-Ams Chris Banchero and Stanley Pringle on hold. In last year’s FIBA Asia Championships, Lassiter and Chris Lutz were almost disqualified because of the new rule but were allowed to play anyway on condition it would not be considered a precedent. FIBA decreed that they would be subject to the new rule in the future. The rule has also kept Sol Mercado, Cliff Hodge and Chris Ellis on hold. Reyes said the SBP would appeal the rule at the FIBA Asia Congress, citing the law of the land should be upheld in recognizing who is eligible for citizenship.
Reyes said Fil-Am recruit Matt Ganuelas Rosser isn’t affected by the FIBA rule because he was born in the Philippines. Gabe Norwood and Sonny Thoss are also unaffected as they had previously played in a FIBA Asia competition and the rule is not retroactive. Reyes said it affects the case of two Fil-Ams who are presently playing for US NCAA Division I schools.