MANILA, Philippines -- They were brought in to address the manpower woes of the Smart Gilas national team.
PBA stars Asi Taulava, Kelly Williams and Sol Mercado will join training camp on Wednesday at the Arena in San Juan as the RP five switches into full gear in its six-week preparation for the Guangzhou Asian Games.
Smart Gilas coach Rajko Toroman said the bulky, 6-foot-9 Taulava would provide the much-needed size around the rim while the versatile 6-foot-7 Williams would be the team?s ready answer during mismatch situations at the power forward slot.
As for the 6-foot-1 Mercado, Toroman said the shifty Rain Or Shine playmaker would add more depth to the already talented backcourt of Smart Gilas skipper Chris Tiu, co-captain Mark Barroca, JV Casio, Chris Lutz and Marcio Lassiter.
?These are the players that we need to become more competitive. We have six weeks to work out together and hopefully the plan pays off,? said Toroman. The Guangzhou Asiad is scheduled Nov. 12-27.
While Taulava and Williams had donned the national colors in the past, Mercado will be on his first tour of duty with the Nationals.
Mercado took the spot reserved for reigning PBA MVP James Yap, who opted to rest after undergoing surgery to remove a polyp in his nasal passage.
?It?s an honor for me to be included,? said Mercado. ?I?ll just do whatever I can to help the team. Coach Rajko knows what he?s doing. I can?t wait to play for him.?
Mercado is expected to thrive on Toroman?s system of allowing more touches for backcourt players.
The system also provides a dozen scoring opportunities for players like Williams, who will be left open close to the basket as the defense focuses at the backcourt.
Since Toroman hardly calls post plays for big men, Taulava will have to get his points on pick-and-rolls, tip-ins and putbacks.
In this team, Taulava?s main job is to grab rebounds and stop opposing frontline players from getting to the rim.
That?s exactly what Taulava did when he helped Smart Gilas finish third place in the Fiba Asia Stankovic Cup in Beirut last month.