No PBA players to suit up for Gilas in FIBA Asia, Olympic qualifiers

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 09 2021 06:45 PM

MANILA, Philippines -- PBA players will not be called up to play for Gilas Pilipinas when it competes in the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers and the FIBA Olympic qualifying tournament (OQT) in June.

PBA chairman Ricky Vargas announced Tuesday that the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) will instead field a team composed entirely of cadets -- including the players that the federation will take in the Rookie Draft this Sunday. 

"'Yung FIBA window, all-Gilas (cadet) team 'yun," Vargas said in a press briefing after the league's two-day planning session. "The PBA will not be asked to contribute any players, other than those we have contributed already during the draft this year, and the previous draft."

"In the Olympic qualifying tournament, ganoon din po. It will be an all-Gilas (cadets) team," he added.

According to SBP president Al Panlilio, the decision to go with an all-cadet team will serve two purposes: they can continue the development of the young Gilas Pilipinas players, while also ensuring that the PBA can push through with its upcoming season.

The PBA is looking to start its 46th season on April 11, at which point the national team would have already started training for its upcoming tournaments.

The final window of the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers, which was originally set for this month, has been tentatively rescheduled for the second week of June. Meanwhile, the FIBA OQT that will take place in Serbia is set for June 28 to July 4. 

"The intention of the program is to start the build-up quite early, starting this month," said Panlilio, also the team governor of the Meralco Bolts. 

"If we want to start training this month, this will go through all the way to July 4, which is the last day of the Olympic qualifying tournament. It will completely (affect) the calendar of the PBA," he added.

With no PBA players, SBP will call up the five players that they took in the 2019 Rookie Draft -- Isaac Go, Matt and Mike Nieto, Rey Suerte, and Allyn Bulanadi. They will be joined by the four players who will be taken by the federation in Sunday's draft: Tzaddy Rangel, Jordan Heading, JD Tungcab, and William Navarro.

According to Panlilio, they will also include naturalization candidate Ange Kouame in the pool, as well as teenage center Kai Sotto. They are also in talks with college players to join the pool for a training camp.

"I think we can come up with 20 or 25 names that can enter the bubble as early as the end of the month to start training," he said.

Even with no PBA players in the group, the league will still help Gilas Pilipinas in its preparation. The SBP and the league are discussing the possibility of a pocket tournament involving Gilas, one other national team, and two PBA teams ahead of the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers.

The national team may also play in the upcoming conference as a guest team, although their games will have no bearing on the standings. 

"I'd like to repeat the appreciation of SBP to the PBA for helping our programs," said Panlilio. 

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