Chot chooses Gilas veterans
Gilas Pilipinas takes the first step in its bid to return to the World Cup on Friday, clashing with Japan in Tokyo with a roster coach Chot Reyes feels is suited to defeat the Japanese on the road.
After close to three weeks of hard work, Reyes made the final three cuts on his 15-man pool, basically sticking out with tested veterans led by Jayson Castro at the guard spot, Japeth Aguilar at forward and naturalized center Andray Blatche and June Mar Fajardo in the middle.
Reyes put Carl Bryan Cruz, Mac Belo and the injured Raymond Almazan in the freezer for this match, but reiterated that the Gilas roster could change when the Filipinos battle Chinese Taipei at home on Monday.
“Basically, we took into account the team that we are playing [today],” Reyes said after revealing the final roster. “And we also took into account our health and injury situation.”
The 6-foot-7 Almazan still has a swollen ankle, and could be available for the Taiwanese.
“I spoke to the three of them and they took it very professionally and very well,” Reyes added. “This is just the 12-man roster for [Friday’s] game. For Taiwan, it would be different. Every game could change.”
Kevin Alas will be the third point guard at Reyes’ disposal after Castro and Kiefer Ravena.
Calvin Abueva, RR Pogoy, Matthew Wright, Gabe Norwood, Allein Maliksi and Troy Rosario complete the team.
Team Philippines has had a long record of success against the Japanese, its last loss to the hosts happening in 2004 in the Fiba Asia Challenge where the Filipinos lost by 60 points.
Japan has thrown in everything against the Philippines of late, including former NBA player Yuta Tabuse, to no avail.
It will be bannered by naturalized forward Ira Brown in the 7 p.m. (6 p.m. in Manila) game at Komazawa gym at the Olympic Park in Tokyo.
The talented 6-foot-10 center Joji Takeuchi will still be the Japanese’s main man, though the Filipinos have ample knowledge of how he plays, which will be critical in Reyes’ defensive scheme.
There are a total of 80 countries taking part in this hectic qualifying process, with the Philippines shooting to become one of eight countries coming from Asia to play in the World Cup in China in 2019.
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