SBP has 29 pros on wish list for Gilas’ Fiba window, but putting players in month-long bubble could make PBA stars opt out
The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) and Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) will meet this week to finalize the list of pros that will join the Gilas Pilipinas pool from where the team that will play in the February window of the Fiba Asia Cup will come from.
But, unlike in the past when players readily answered calls to play for flag and country, SBP president Al Panlilio believes that this time will be much different.
“We will be putting them in another bubble-type environment,” Panlilio told the Inquirer over the phone on Saturday. “That’s why we don’t want to release the names of the PBA players yet. The SBP is cognizant of the sensitivities surrounding such an announcement. And because of the bubble, some of those players might not want to go.”
Panlilio said that it was the recommendation of Gilas program director Tab Baldwin that the players be put in a closed environment for “3-4 weeks” to learn the system as Gilas battles South Korea twice and Indonesia once from Feb. 18-22, looking for one win that would shove the Philippines in the continental championship.
The SBP president said that they had already told PBA commissioner Willie Marcial of Gilas’ wish list of 29 PBA players, and that they would like to end the scheduled meeting this week knowing who are those willing to play and be in a bubble similar to what the players had to endure during the Philippine Cup in Clark last year.
“Some of our players might not want to go through that again,” Panlilio said.
Korea will reportedly be sending its best team for that window, and Panlilio, understandably so, wants the Philippines to also be represented by its best for those two games and the one against Indonesia.
Indonesia won’t be a pushover, with the team having a naturalized player, which Team Philippines won’t have the luxury of with Ange Kouame yet to get his clearance from Congress.
“He’s definitely out for this window,” Panlilio said of Kouame, whose citizenship is still pending with the House of Representatives going on recess before it could do the second reading on the case of the Ateneo standout in the UAAP.
It would have been a great showcase for Kouame to play with a Gilas team bannered by pros against a Korean side that has a naturalized player in Ra Gun-ah, also known as Ricardo Ratliffe, the former Purefoods import in the PBA.
“He (Kouame) will be with Gilas in the Asia Cup at the earliest,” Panlilio said. “It (naturalization) is a really long process and we have to respect it.”
Kouame’s presence would have been a big boost as this basketball-crazed nation has followed Gilas games passionately.
The window will be held at Angeles University Foundation, the same venue of the highly-successful Philippine Cup won by Barangay Ginebra over TNT.
For his part, Marcial said that the league still cannot commit any of its players, though “we will definitely lend them for as long as they are available,” as a lot of the players who made up past Gilas Pilipinas teams are abroad with their families.
“We don’t really know when they are scheduled to return, what with the travel bans and everything,” Marcial said. “But definitely, if the SBP wants a certain player, the PBA is ready to help—provided that player is available.”
Marcial said that the next PBA season is slated to start in April, which means that most of the players who are abroad with their families are not scheduled to return until late-February or early in March.
“Putting them in a bubble again will be a big consideration for all of the candidates,” Marcial said. “I know the mental strain a lot of them (players) suffered during the Philippine Cup, that’s why the PBA, as much as possible, wouldn’t want to put players in such an environment for long periods again.”
Marcial also said that the league is targeting holding at least two conferences for its 46th Season this year, though they will shoot to stage all three if possible.
Holding tournaments in a closed-circuit environment is the most ideal way, Marcial said, after the league spent more than P65 million for the Philippine Cup.
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