Reyes names deep pool for sixth Qualifying window as Gilas buckles down to work for two tough home games
A three-game win streak, the expansion of its pool for naturalized players and the time to prepare are things that don’t come that often for the Gilas Pilipinas program.
It’s now time for coach Chot Reyes and his gritty 24-man bunch of Nationals to put in the work as Team Philippines braces for the sixth and final qualifying window of the International Basketball Federation (Fiba) World Cup slated next month.
The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) released a list of candidates that will make up possibly two different teams that will play Lebanon and Jordan, and many feel that Justin Brownlee will get his first call-up as a naturalized Filipino and join some grizzled internationalists and longshots to make the team like Filipino-Australian teen Mason Amos.
“We know we’ll be missing quite a few players on Monday, but we need to get started as the Lebanon game is fast approaching,” Reyes told the Inquirer on Friday shortly after the talent pool was announced by the SBP.
“We’ll get a chance to take a good look at the new guys,” Reyes said as practice officially begins at Meralco Gym in Pasig City.
Brownlee, less than a week removed from leading Barangay Ginebra to the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner’s Cup title and officially being naturalized, seems to have a lock on a spot over Ange Kouame, the Ateneo big man in the UAAP who is also on the list.
Also getting their first Gilas call-ups are former La Salle ace Schonny Winston, Adamson star Jerom Lastimosa, and Amos, a 6-foot-8 bruiser who has already seen international action for Batang Gilas. Japan-bound Carl Tamayo, who left the University of the Philippines after just two seasons, also has a shot at a slot.
Making the list again are reigning PBA Most Valuable Player Scottie Thompson, six-time MVP June Mar Fajardo, CJ Perez, Chris Newsome, Roger Pogoy, Jamie Malonzo, Calvin Oftana, Japeth Aguilar, Raymond Almazan, and Arvin Tolentino.
Leading the bunch of players who are based overseas are Kai Sotto, brothers Thirdy and Kiefer Ravena, Ray Parks. Jr. Dwight Ramos and Jordan Heading.
Rounding out the list are La Salle’s Kevin Quiambao, and Ateneo’s Francis Lopez.
The Philippines plays the red-hot Cedars (Feb. 24) and the vengeful Jordanians (Feb. 27) in virtual dry runs at the cavernous venue, which will hold a chunk of the games when the main event—the Fiba World Cup—rolls along in August.
Reyes, in an earlier interview, couldn’t contain his excitement at the prospect of having Brownlee playing alongside Fajardo, San Miguel’s dominant cornerstone who has played in two World Cups.
“Right away, there will be changes with Justin and June Mar—hopefully—being available. Right away, there’ll be a change in [the team’s] dynamics, right?” he said.
The Philippines is currently toting a 5-3 record in the tournament it really doesn’t need to win, but is using for coaching staff to see the player-combinations that would work best in an international setting.
This will also be Reyes’ first time to call the shots focused solely on Gilas, as he took a leave from his duties with TNT in the PBA to have undivided attention until after the main event.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment the whole time,” Brownlee said in a previous interview. “Hopefully, I can just make the Philippines even prouder.”
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