MANILA, Philippines -- Playing in the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers will be very beneficial to the young Gilas Pilipinas players, some of whom are making their debuts in international basketball.
This, according to Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) president Al Panlilio, who expects the Gilas youngsters to benefit from the experience, much like JVee Casio, Marcio Lassiter, Mark Barroca, and Japeth Aguilar did during their initial stints with the national team.
The SBP had opted to send a youthful squad to the November window of the qualifiers, as most of the PBA players are still in the league's bubble in Clark, Pampanga.
Panlilio revealed during an appearance on "2OT" that CJ Perez of TerraFirma and Kiefer Ravena of NLEX expressed their willingness to play, but they wanted to give the professionals a chance to recover from their compressed season.
Thus, a team composed of fresh graduates and collegiate players will represent the Philippines when Gilas plays Thailand on November 27 and 30 in Manama, Bahrain, where the qualifying window will be held in a bubble.
"Very excited ako about this program," Panlilio also said on "2OT."
"I am excited, because it's only gonna level up Philippine basketball with this experience," he added.
Leading the way for the team are four players who also saw action in the February 2020 window -- Matt Nieto, Isaac Go, Juan Gomez de Liano, and Dwight Ramos. Also included are Mike Nieto, Rey Suerte and Allyn Bulanadi, the three other players selected in the special round of the PBA Rookie Draft in December and loaned to the SBP to become full-time Gilas players.
Kobe Paras and Dave Ildefonso, who have extensive experience in the youth level, are also part of the roster. The other members of the team are: Justine Baltazar, Kemark Carino, Javi Gomez del Liano, William Navarro, Calvin Oftana, and JD Tungcab.
Panlilio said these players will benefit massively from the experience -- the way Aguilar, Lassiter, Casio, and Barroca did when they played for the Philippines in the 2011 FIBA Asia Championships.
"Those people who went to that experience, when they came and played in the PBA, they were not really considered as rookies," Panlilio noted. "They are starting already in Day 1. I think most of them, if not all of them, are starters already because of that experience."
"You know sa PBA, 'pag may rookie, sometimes 'di ba they don't get enough playing time unless 'yung level mo sila Kiefer (Ravena)," he added. "But these players are already in the starting lineup and have the experience and maturity as players to start in a PBA team."
Moreover, Panlilio can't wait to see who among the current players will improve enough to contend for a spot in the team for the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
"It will be nice to see a split between these young men and some PBA veterans," said Panlilio, who acknowledged that players like June Mar Fajardo, Aguilar and Roger Pogoy will always vie for a place in Gilas because of their experience.
"But these young guys can be part of the team and you have Thirdy (Ravena) who is also trying to develop himself in Japan," he added. "(It's) very exciting for 2023… We're really looking at this as a long term program for the national team."
Gilas Pilipinas will only play twice in the qualifying window, with both games coming against Thailand. They currently have a 1-0 record in Group A thanks to a 100-70 rout of Indonesia last February.
The top two teams from the six groups in the qualifiers will advance to the FIBA Asia Cup 2021.