MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippine men's national basketball team suffered another setback as team captain Rey Suerte sustained an ankle sprain following Wednesday's practice.
It is uncertain if the former University of the East standout will get to suit up for the upcoming FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers in Clark, Pampanga, as well as the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade, Serbia.
"The swelling is significant," according to Gilas Pilipinas program director Tab Baldwin.
"He was recently designated as our team captain, so this is not good news at all," he added. "It's unfortunate, because he was also doing very well in practice."
According to Gilas Pilipinas trainer Dexter Aseron, Suerte miscalculated his landing after jumping for a rebound, and added unnecessary weight on his ankle.
Based on Aseron's initial assessment, Suerte suffered a Grade 2 or Grade 3 sprain.
"It could take one to two weeks to recover," said Aseron. "We're hoping there will be no fractures when he gets his x-ray."
Suerte, the second pick in the 2019 "Gilas Draft," missed the first window of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers against Indonesia in February 2020. But he started both of the Philippines' games against Thailand last November.
In the first game, a 93-61 triumph for Gilas, Suerte had nine points on four-of-eight shooting. In the second game, he tallied four points, three rebounds, three assists, and a steal in a 93-69 victory.
"Rey has been our captain and eldest member of the team so his maturity has been a stabilizing force in our group. He's also an excellent three-point shooter who has a scorer's mentality so he has become a reliable source of points," said Baldwin.
"We will miss his leadership and scoring punch in the team."
With this development, Isaac Go and Mike Nieto are the only 2019 draftees still available for the squad. Allyn Bulanadi is still recovering from a shoulder injury, and Matt Nieto recently suffered a broken hand.
But Baldwin is counting on the team's "next man up" mentality to come to the fore as they continue gearing up for the qualifiers, which takes place on June 16 to 20 in Clark.
"As a national team, you always believe that you have the talent to replace fallen players. We're currently looking at Jordan Heading and Jaydee Tungcab to step into the vacancy left by Rey's injury," said Baldwin.
"Jordan provides excellent shooting and some ball handling skills while Jaydee is an outstanding open court player who is also a tenacious defender," he added.
Heading and Tungcab were both part of the most recent batch of selections from the Gilas Draft.
"We are hoping that the impact on the team's leadership will be minimized by more players stepping up and becoming more vocal, on and off the court," Baldwin said.