Decision made easy
Gilas Pilipinas coach Yeng Guiao already had 10 people in mind that would make up his Fiba World Cup roster. But unfortunate events made his selection swift and predictable.
“Actually, we have been discussing it for days. Although of course, there were circumstances that came into play,” Guiao said.
Guiao didn’t need to expound, as a variety of injuries essentially pruned the national team pool to just 12 men entering Gilas’ second and final tune-up game against the Adelaide 36ers at Meralco Gym on Sunday night.
Naturalized big man Andray Blatche, PBA Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo, Japeth Aguilar, Gabe Norwood—all of whom were remnants of the 2014 World Cup squad—were shoo-ins together with two-way players Troy Rosario and Roger Pogoy.
The other six who completed the cast that night were led by another veteran internationalist in Paul Lee, along with Mark Barroca, Raymond Almazan, rookies CJ Perez and Robert Bolick and the returning Kiefer Ravena.
And that, as it turned out, were all the names that comprised the final lineup, which was formally unveiled by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas through its social media accounts a little past 9 p.m.
“Of course, it’s what we saw the first day of practice to this day,” Guiao said when asked about the factors that influenced the selection.
“Their health and the cohesion that they provide for the team were factors,” he added.
Matthew Wright and Poy Erram were the final two cuts from the pool. Though they participated in the eight-day training camp in Spain, their chances of making Guiao’s roster took a nosedive after getting injured just as the Nationals’ preparations were entering it’s final two weeks.
Gunslinger Marcio Lassiter was ruled out by Guiao himself last week following an MCL injury he sustained during the PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinals. Wright and Erram both hurt their foot during training and eventually cost them practice days.
But it won’t be the end of their national duty, as the trio has been assured of spots in the Southeast Asian Games roster, the fiery coach revealed in an earlier interview.
The Nationals took Monday off and are expected to put the finishing touches on their schemes for Italy, Serbia, and Angola—who they tackle in that order—in Group D play beginning Aug. 31.
Guiao said that the squad will be bringing with them to China a feeling of optimism after their tuneup games with the Australians, and hopefully, Lassiter, Wright, Erram, along with Beau Belga, who helped out in Gilas’ preparations early on.
“I’m very happy with the effort of the guys. I saw that anyone I put on the floor also put in the effort,” he said. “And that’s all I’m asking from them.”
Gilas leaves for the global meet on Thursday morning.