MANILA, Philippines -- Two of the players who impressed during Gilas Pilipinas' campaign in the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers last year won't see action this month for the national team.
Big men Justine Baltazar and Carl Tamayo will not be part of the Gilas lineup for the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers that will take place at the Araneta Coliseum on February 24-28, owing to their commitments to their respective universities.
Baltazar is set to play in his fifth and final year with De La Salle University, and is focused on the Green Archers' campaign for the UAAP season that is tentatively set to start in March.
Tamayo, meanwhile, is an incoming freshman at the University of the Philippines. Its program director, Bo Perasol, told ABS-CBN News that Tamayo is also focused on the Fighting Maroons' preparations for Season 84.
"He (Tamayo) will be available for the national team anytime after the UAAP," Perasol told ABS-CBN News of UP's message to the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas.
Returning Gilas coach Chot Reyes is admittedly disappointed not to have either player for the upcoming FIBA window, given the lack of players in the national team pool at the moment.
"We wanted to get Carl Tamayo here, but he was not allowed by his school. Same thing I think with Justine Baltazar," Reyes told former PBA Commissioner Noli Eala on "Power and Play."
"With all the other players, different circumstances. So, you know, we are going with what we have," he added.
Reyes, who was reinstated as Gilas coach just last week in place of Tab Baldwin, is reinforcing the Gilas Pilipinas pool with players from his TNT Tropang GIGA squad. Also in the pool are Ateneo's Ange Kouame, free agent Juan Gomez de Liano, Toyama's Dwight Ramos, and Gilas draftees Tzaddy Rangel, Will Navarro, and Jaydee Tungcab.
All of them are already at the Malarayat Golf & Country Club in Batangas where TNT is holding its bubble training camp in preparation for the resumption of the PBA Governors' Cup.
That Tamayo and Baltazar will miss the FIBA window is disappointing for Reyes, who is still determined to pursue a youth-centric Gilas program heading into the FIBA World Cup 2023.
"Ang gusto ko sana talaga, 'yung line-up dito sa February, while we can be as competitive as possible, is still very developmental in nature," he said.
"Kaya ang laking bagay sa akin, sana andito si Carl Tamayo, sana nandito si Justine Baltazar, sana all of those young guys could come and join us. But unfortunately, mukhang hindi eh," he added.
Baltazar played five games for Gilas in the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers, averaging 7.4 points and 7.8 rebounds per game while being played as a small forward by Baldwin.
Tamayo, meanwhile, saw action against Korea and Indonesia, putting up 8 points and 2.5 rebounds per contest.
While Baltazar and Tamayo will have to sit out the February window, Reyes is still looking forward to coaching the younger players in the group, especially as he hopes to see them in the Gilas team that will compete for the Philippines in next year's World Cup.
"We still have some young guys, and right now, that's what we have, and that's what we'll continue to build on," said Reyes.
"My expectation is to get a feel of actually going to battle and working with Ange, with Dwight, with all the Gilas guys," he added. "For me, that's my No. 1 goal, and I guess for the program, the goal is the continued development of those young kids in preparation for 2023."
The Philippines will play South Korea on February 24 and 28, India on February 25, and New Zealand on February 27 in the first window of the World Cup Asian qualifiers.