MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippine national men's basketball team will resume training in early January, with PBA players expected to be part of the pool that will prepare for the final window of the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers.
Gilas Pilipinas currently has a 3-0 record in Group A, with two of those wins coming in last month's "bubble" in Manama, Bahrain. There, the Philippines sent a youthful squad composed of players with no professional experience, as the PBA players were still competing in their own bubble in Clark, Pampanga.
The pros will be available for the February 2021 window, however, as the PBA is not set to start its new season until April at the earliest.
"In this upcoming window, because the PBA is at a break period, we should be able to access some PBA players," said Tab Baldwin, the program director of Gilas Pilipinas, in a press conference on Thursday afternoon.
"But at this point, it's far too early to be able to delineate how many of each," he added, referring to PBA players and "young" players.
Gilas Pilipinas featured a mix of pros and collegiate standouts in the first qualifying window all the way back in February 2020, when PBA stars led by Kiefer Ravena and Roger Pogoy served as the veteran leaders of the squad that also featured Thirdy Ravena and Dwight Ramos.
Ramos was one of the stars for the Philippines in the second window, while brothers Juan and Javi Gomez de Liano also shone as the young Gilas team booked two comfortable victories over Thailand.
But the Philippines will have a tougher schedule in the February 2021 window that will be hosted in Clark, Pampanga. They play South Korea twice, on February 18 and 22, and a much-improved Indonesia side on February 20.
The Philippines routed Indonesia, 100-70, when they played in February 2020, but the team has since added naturalized player Lester Prosper and Brandon Jawato to the squad.
"There's always gonna be room for and a need for experience in our team, if we expect to compete at the elite level," said Baldwin.
While the composition of the training pool has yet to be decided, what's certain is that the team needs an early start to their camp. Jong Uichico, who called the shots for Gilas in Bahrain, said they expect to start preparing in early January.
"We expect a bubble training, another bubble training. When and where is still a question, but we will start early January for that bubble training," said Uichico.
There, the young Gilas players who shone in Bahrain will test themselves against the returning PBA players to determine who will get to play in the third and final qualifying window.
"We wanna get into camp, we wanna get all of our players into camp, and we wanna see them working out against one another," said Baldwin.
"The ultimate goal for us is to create a talented team, not a team of talents," he added. "It's up to all of the players to find their place within this talented team… That takes a lot of hard work, it takes a lot of commitment."
"It takes sacrifice from the players, and I don't think we have an issue with that here in the Philippines, either with the PBA players who will be invited in, or with our collegiate standouts and our young standout players."