Smart Gilas players set to get offers Wednesday

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MANILA—Smart Gilas Pilipinas management is expected to open negotiations Wednesday with key members of the team to counter the lure of the Philippine Basketball Association rookie draft, whose deadline for application is pegged Thursday.

Several players have already enlisted for the draft, with more expected to beat the deadline if Smart Gilas cannot come into terms with the players despite announcing the extension of the program for two more years.

“We’re still discussing the plans for the next two years,” said team manager Frankie Lim. “But we should be ready by tomorrow (Wednesday).”

Team captain Chris Tiu said most of his teammates have been seriously considering turning pro.

“My teammates and I are still thinking about it,” said Tiu. “We’re waiting for management to talk to us. Right now, we don’t know who to approach.

“But as I’ve said before, it’s always an honor to serve the country.”

Marcio Lassiter and Chris Lutz, two foreign recruits with Filipino lineage, have already completed their papers and have applied for the PBA Draft. Starting point guard Mark Barroca, forward Mac Baracael and backup center Jason Ballesteros have also signed up for the annual exercise.

Backup playmaker JV Casio, who had big games in the recent Jones Cup, and forward Dylan Ababou, the star of the 2006 UST champion squad, are also ready to make the jump, according to their agent, Charlie Dy.

But these players could still delay their PBA aspirations once lured back into the national squad.

Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Manny V. Pangilinan recently announced the extension of the Smart Gilas program until the 2013 Fiba Asia Championship, where three slots to 2014 Fiba Worlds are available.

Smart Sports head and Maynilad senior vice president Patrick Gregorio confirmed that the committee handling the finances and affairs of the Nationals has been ironing things out.

Forward Japeth Aguilar, who has a live contract with Talk N Text, said he loves playing for the national team but would wait after the Fiba Asia Championship in Wuhan, China, on Sept. 15 to 25 before making a decision.

After the Asian championship, which offers the lone continental ticket to the 2012 London Olympics, Smart Gilas will rebuild around naturalized center Marcus Douthit should the local players decide to try their luck in the PBA.

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