MANILA — Even before the 19th Asian Games in China officially starts, Gilas Pilipinas is already facing issues regarding its final roster for the tournament.
Key players like Terrence Romeo, Calvin Abueva, Mo Tautuaa, and Jason Perkins’ clearance to play is still in peril after the Asiad organizers initially rejected their inclusion in the team.
Despite their woes, Gilas team official and San Miguel Corporation (SMC) Sports Director Alfrancis Chua is proud of how the rest of the squad remains eager to play for flag and country.
“Ang daming nagsabi mag-withdraw. Yan ang pinaka-madali, that the quickest way para ‘di na sumakit ang ulo namin,” the fiery Ginebra Team Governor said during a press conference at the PBA Office on Tuesday.
There were calls for the team to pull out of the Asian Games not just because of their eligibility issues. They also lost RR Pogoy to a health concern, with Marcio Lassiter coming in as a replacement.
But Chua said the players themselves want to continue their campaign in China.
“The quickest way was 'wag na lang, hindi na sasali ang Pilipinas. [But] the seven players, unang-una si June Mar [Fajardo], everybody wants to play,” he said.
“Coach Tim asked the seven players, minus Pogoy [due to injuries], eight because of Marcio’s [arrival] yesterday: ‘Are you guys willing to play?’
“Ang dami naming sleepless nights, but coming from the players and coming from Coach Tim [Cone], they want to play.”
The one-time Ginebra head coach also revealed how Romeo, Abueva, and co. became emotional when they received the news that they might not be cleared to play in China next week.
“Last night, we talked to the four. Talagang iyakan kasi kahit sandali lang na oras, talagang naging solid yung team,” he said.
But the team has found a solution to their eligibility woes by calling up CJ Perez, Kevin Alas, Chris Ross, and Arvin Tolentino. And Chua is confident that they will be ready to play once the men’s five-on-five tournament starts on September 26.
“Nandito kami, kami n’ang gumawa, kami n’ang lalaban, so kahit ganun yung line-up, lalaban kami,” he vowed.