Gilas Pilipinas head coach Chot Reyes has announced the 12-man lineup representing the country in the 2018 Asian Games, the same time preparations for the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers have resumed. This won't be your usual delegation—two iterations of the national team will wear the flag in their respective competitions.
With everything that's happening in basketball these days (NBA free agency, PBA trades, MPBL and NCAA's import ban), a refresher on our international campaign for casual fans is rather fitting.
Who are the new faces?
Joining mainstays Jayson Castro, Terrence Romeo, Troy Rosario, RR Pogoy and the comebacking Kelly Williams from TNT KaTropa are their teammates and Gilas first-timers Jericho Cruz, Don Trollano, and Anthony Semerad bound for the Asiad in Indonesia.
The only non-KaTropa aside from naturalized Filipino Andray Blatche are cadets Kobe Paras, Ricci Rivero, and Abu Tratter, who are all part of Reyes' dream national team pool for the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup, which will be hosted by the Philippines.
Why only TNT?
The Gilas tactician explained his decision to field mostly KaTropas via SPIN.ph: "The PBA released a statement last week that there are scheduling difficulties. We've decided to just get the core of TNT to make sure that there is no need for any lengthy practice. At least they are already a team."
He also revealed that the Alaska Aces offered one player—either Calvin Abueva or Carl Bryan Cruz—but he chose not to due to chemistry issues, adding that forming a team from a single unit will have the "least disruption" for a KaTropa squad that is already gearing up for the third PBA conference.
So when's the next game?
Just to clarify, this isn't the same group that will play against Chinese Taipei on June 29 on the road and Australia on July 2 at home for the third window of the Asian qualifiers, which will be led by team captain Gabe Norwood and four-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo.
That version of the national team recently had a well-attended training for those games, which saw the likes of Allein Maliksi, Roger Pogoy, Matthew Wright, Jio Jalalon, Baser Amer, Cruz, and Abueva practice with the Asian Games contingent. Speaking of the "caged" Beast...
The enigmatic forward was allowed by Alaska to participate in Monday's session, but looked out of step during the whole thing. Calvin's lack of conditioning was a result of the Aces suspending him indefinitely for going missing in action earlier this month.
Reyes said, "Nakita niyo he is also struggling in the scrimmages because same thing, he hasn't been playing for what, two weeks na since he missed the Alaska practice. His timing is off. He is not as sharp as the other guys. That's what not playing does to you."
Abueva isn't the only one having fitness concerns, as Andray "hasn't been in game shape" despite arriving early for workouts. Still, Chot is hopeful the former NBA player regains top form before the first match, and they will have four days in Taiwan to do that.
"It helped in the sense that he is already here and he has been working out," he related. "As against before, he was injured or playing with his Chinese Team, the good thing with that was that he was in game shape. Now he is not in game shape at all."