Chot’s final 12 is PH ‘A-Team’ for Fiba AsiaBy Musong R. Castillo |Philippine Daily Inquirer
WITHOUT making specific reference to the hit fictional television series of the 1980s, Gilas-Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes describes his squad for the coming Fiba Asia Championship as the “A-Team.”
“They are not a collection of the biggest stars in the PBA,” Reyes told the Inquirer via a text message from New Zealand late Thursday night, hours after releasing his final 12 for the Manila World Championship qualifier slated Aug. 1 to 11.
“This is A-Team,” Reyes added. “I think that’s what we have now.”
Beau Belga of Rain or Shine was the last man to be cut on Thursday as Reyes completed his roster that would try to finish at least third in the 16-nation event and make the World Championship in Madrid next year.
“I wanted players who genuinely wanted to be in the team and are willing to sacrifice their vacation, family time and even their careers for the cause,” Reyes said.
“I’ve never wavered from the team I wanted to build from Day 1: quick, versatile (with) great outside shooters.”
Naturalized 6-foot-10 center Marcus Douthit and reigning Jones Cup MVP LA Tenorio banner the squad that will clash with Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Chinese-Taipei in the first round of the preliminaries scheduled at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.
The team winds down its preparations in a hectic stint in New Zealand against the host’s national team.
The Filipinos started off with an 82-78 decision off the Hawke’s Bay Hawks at Hastings Sports Centre in Napier in Friday night.
PBA scoring champion Gary David, Larry Fonacier and Jeff Chan are the deadly shooters that Reyes is talking about with Ranidel De Ocampo, June Mar Fajardo and Marc Pingris giving Douthit support in the middle.
Gabe Norwood, Japeth Aguilar, Jimmy Alapag and Jason Castro will share the backcourt with Tenorio.
The squad is in New Zealand to get some real-game exposure against club squads there, something Reyes had to do after the defending champion Filipinos were given the snub by the Jones Cup organizers in Taiwan.
Gilas-Pilipinas would have had the chance to sample the Fiba Asia opposition in Taipei.
“We hope to come back about 85 percent ready (for the Fiba Asia),” Reyes told the Inquirer last Tuesday. As hosts, the Philippines had the luxury of choosing its group in the Fiba Asia. With Reyes electing to be in Group A, the Filipinos can avoid clashing with powerhouses China, Iran and South Korea until the knockout stages.
But the Filipinos would have to top their two-round preliminary assignments to be able to have a light quarterfinal foe—possibly Kazakhstan—before drawing any of the three rock-solid countries in the Final Four—where a win would land them a slot in the Worlds.