SBP, PBA players meet to iron out bubble basics; June Mar in, Castro out?
Twenty-nine PBA standouts will meet with the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas leadership within the next couple of days to discuss whether there is a need for a training bubble and how it will be run if the national federation decides to go that direction in preparing the Gilas Pilipinas pool for the Fiba Asia Cup’s third window slated late next month in Angeles City.
“Basically, the meeting will be about getting the inputs of the players on whether or not a bubble is needed for that,” PBA commissioner Willie Marcial told the Inquirer over the phone on Thursday. The meeting will take place either on Friday or Saturday, with SBP president Al Panlilio presiding.
“The SBP wants the opinion of the players on how this will be handled,” Marcial added as he confirmed an Inquirer story last week that the SBP had 29 names on its wish list of PBA standouts it wants to join the pool.
Gilas will play South Korea twice and Indonesia once from Feb. 18 to 22 at Angeles University Foundation, needing one win to advance to the continental championship slated in August where the Filipinos could be joined by Ange Kouame as their new naturalized player.
June Mar Fajardo, the San Miguel Beer cornerstone and reigning six-time PBA MVP could be an interesting inclusion in the pool after getting the go-signal to return to action just a few days ago by renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. Raul Canlas.
The 6-foot-10 Fajardo has been out for close to a year now because of a broken shin, but has kept himself in decent shape with targeted home workouts.
TNT franchise player Jayson Castro, who injured a leg in the PH Cup title series against eventual champion Barangay Ginebra, is, according to a reliable source, not on the SBP wish list.
Kouame’s citizenship is still pending after Congress went on recess before the second reading of his case, but Panlilio said that the country is hopeful that the Ateneo center in the UAAP would become available for Team Philippines in its next tournament and the more important international championships in the future.
And with Kouame out for the coming window, the SBP is leaving no stone unturned in building the best team to chase after that one victory.
Korea, as the SBP knows it, will be sending its A-Team for the window, and that would mean bringing in naturalized center Ra Gun-ah, known hereabouts as former Purefoods import in the PBA Ricardo Ratliffe.
The SBP had begged off from releasing the names of the players before the meeting, cognizant of the sensitivities surrounding anyone who would opt to beg off from national duty.
Panlilio said that Gilas program director Tab Baldwin wants the pool to be in a bubble for “3-4 weeks” before the games, and that he thinks that this setup could make some of the players ask to be excluded after what they had gone through in the Philippine Cup bubble, where players from the teams that made the Finals stayed there for close to three months.
“The mental stress is something else when you’re inside,” Marcial said as the Office of the Commissioner is studying a closed-circuit setup for the coming PBA season set to open April 9 “so as not to subject the
players to that kind of strain again.”
The PH Cup bubble also cost the PBA at least P65 million. The Fiba window will also be held in a bubble that will last to about a week, with players subjected to strict health measures.
Meanwhile, seven aspirants, led by the seasoned Jason Brickman, have so far declared for the coming rookie Draft set for March 14.
Other high-profile names in the lean pool are Jeremiah Gray, Brandon Ganuelas-Rosser and Andre Paras.
Brickman, a standout in the Asean Basketball League for Alab Pilipinas and Mono Vampires of Thailand, is a prospective top overall choice.
Carl Ravanes, son of defensive whiz and ex-San Miguel coach Biboy, has also tossed his hat into the pool as Marcial expressed elation at the early turnout and is expecting a very deep pool this year. With a report from Denison Rey A. Dalupang
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