MANILA, Philippines -- The Gilas Pilipinas national team is set to begin training for the upcoming window of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers, with the first batch of players entering the "bubble" at the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna on Sunday.
Continuing the plan of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) to feature a younger crop of talents in preparation for the country’s hosting of the FIBA Basketball World Cup in 2023, several players who saw action in the last window were asked to rejoin the training pool.
Among the early birds at the Inspire campus were Isaac Go, Calvin Oftana, and Kenmark Carino, who arrived Sunday morning together with strength and conditioning coach Andrei Tolentino.
Expected to follow are 2019 PBA Rookie Draft selections Matt Nieto, Mike Nieto, and Rey Suerte. The other draftee from 2019, Allyn Bulanadi, will sit out the window to recover from the shoulder injury he suffered last year.
Also headed to Inspire are Javi Gomez de Liano, Dave Ildefonso, Justine Baltazar, and William Navarro.
Naturalization candidate Ange Kouame and Kiefer Ravena of the NLEX Road Warriors are also in the Calamba complex. Ravena is the first of the PBA players to enter the bubble.
The SBP once again called up the country's professionals for the upcoming window in February, after going with a youthful group last November. The team, bannered by Dwight Ramos and the Gomez de Liano brothers, went 2-0 in the FIBA bubble in Bahrain to leap to the top of Group A.
"These young men have not only proven their dedication to the Gilas program but have also shown their capability to work well as a team as we saw in the two games against Thailand in the last window," said SBP President Al Panlilio.
"I'm thankful for their commitment as we continue to lay the foundation for the team we will form in 2023," he added.
The coaching staff includes Gilas Pilipinas Men program director Tab Baldwin, SBP Coaches Commission head Jong Uichico, Boyet Fernandez, Sandy Arespachochaga, Caloy Garcia, and Norman Black.
"As always, we appreciate the unwavering support of PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial and the PBA Board to the Gilas program," said Panlilio.
"We had very good discussions with the PBA and we were able to get the commitment of several PBA players who will be part of the second batch coming into the bubble training on January 22nd," he added.
All the players and staff entering the Gilas training bubble will follow a strict protocol as prescribed by the Inter-Agency Task Force.
The national team also trained at the Inspire Sports Academy in October ahead of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers in Bahrain.
Inspire will also serve as the venue for the training bubble of the country's taekwondo, karate, and boxing national teams as they prepare for various Olympic qualifying tournaments.