Newest Gilas PH battles Visayas 5
Cebu City—It is just for fun and the fans, but Gilas Pilipinas and the Visayas All-Stars are treating Sunday’s 7 p.m. game at Hoops Dome in nearby Lapu-Lapu City in a different light.
The Nationals, who were named to the team Friday, are playing their first game together and are eager to prove their worthiness to carry the country’s colors in the 2017 Southeast Asian Basketball Association (Seaba) Championship slated May 12 to 18 at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Visayans, on the other hand, want to show that they are of the same caliber as the chosen ones and want to strut their stuff before their townmates.
Gilas Pilipinas will be coming into the game, centerpiece event of the island-hopping PBA All-Star Week, sans naturalized center Andray Blatche, but is still slightly favored over Visayas, which lacks practices and cohesion.
Three-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo will be the main man for the Nationals of coach Chot Reyes, especially without the 6-foot-11 Blatche, who’ll be joining the team either on May 1 or 2.
The 6-10 Fajardo, prized product of the Cebu amateur leagues, will be supported by two-time Asia best post guard Jayson Castro, the explosive Terrence Romeo, hardworking Calvin Abueva and newly crowned three-point king Allein Maliksi.
Completing the Nationals, who are expected to rule the Seaba meet and qualify for the 2017 Fiba Asia Cup set Aug. 2 to 10 in Lebanon are rookie Jio Jalalon, RR Pogoy, Troy Rosario, Calvin Abueva, Raymond Almazan, Japeth Aguilar and Matthew Wright.
The Visayans of winningest PBA coach Tim Cone will be bannered by two-time PBA MVP James Yap and back-to-back Philippine Cup Finals MVP Chris Ross, Joe Devance, Jeff Chan and Chris Ellis.
“Our approach is that we’re there for a purpose. It’s not an All-Star game in our minds but we’re there for a purpose to get the national team ready,” said the Barangay Ginebra mentor, two-time Grand Slam coach with Alaska and B-Meg. “So I expect our guys to go out and play, take it seriously, and really go at it.”
Joining them are Joe Devance, Jeff Chan, Chris Ellis, Aldrech Ramos, veterans Asi Taulava and Dondon Hontiveros, Ronald Tubid, Jericho Cruz and Rabeh Al-Hussaini and LA Tenorio, who took over the slots of Fajardo and Romeo.
Gilas Pilipinas assistant coach Jong Uichico said they want to use the game to gain chemistry as the Nationals hadn’t had a chance to play as a unit since the 26-man national pool was formed last month.
The All-Star game here, which earlier visited Cagayan de Oro and Lucena City, is sponsored by HMR Trading, Mueller, Peak, Crystal Clear, Anako, Davco, Smart, Cloudfone and Petron.
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