For Chris Newsome, Gilas Pilipinas slot offers best shot at playing vs world’s finest ballers
The possibility of being able to face some of the best cagers on the international scene is among the motivation for some of the 21 players named to the Gilas Pilipinas pool for the Fiba (International Basketball Federation) Basketball World Cup on home soil.
“That would be a dream come true, if ever I do make that lineup,” said Chris Newsome, one of the names listed in the pool which the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas announced late Tuesday.
Newsome is among the nine players from the Philippine Basketball Association who will be given a chance by Gilas coach Chot Reyes to make the final 12 for the biggest competition in global hoops which the Philippines is among the hosts.
Newsome, June Mar Fajardo, CJ Perez, Scottie Thompson, Jamie Malonzo, RR Pogoy, Poy Erram, Calvin Oftana and Japeth Aguilar will vie for 11 slots along with overseas-based players.
Japan’s B.League standouts Dwight Ramos, brothers Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena, Ray Parks Jr., Carl Tamayo and Jordan Heading and lone South Korean league import Rhenz Abando were also listed in the pool.
Gilas’ 21-man pool for the Fiba World Cup. Who will make the cut? pic.twitter.com/CExmJ2wKka
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Kai Sotto, also playing in Japan, was also included, amid questions if he’ll be able to commit to the World Cup preparations amid his desire to fulfill his NBA dream with his participation in mini-camps and the Las Vegas Summer League.
US NCAA Division I player AJ Edu has also committed to the preparations which began on Wednesday while the final spot is reserved for a naturalized player that has caused some debate among fans and observers.
Jordan Clarkson of the NBA’s Utah Jazz and Barangay Ginebra’s resident import Justin Brownlee are expected to contest that role, but Reyes and his staff have opted to include the oftentimes-forgotten Ange Kouame in the mix.
Kouame, the Ateneo center who was naturalized in 2021, could serve as cover in the event if both Clarkson and Brownlee surprisingly fail to don the Gilas jersey for Fiba’s biggest showpiece.
“Going up against the best players in the world, that’s the closest thing to the NBA that a lot of us will ever get. So of course, I want to be in that lineup,” Newsome said.
“But it all comes down to the decision of the coach, what lineup he feels will best suit our chances of getting some wins in our group. And that’s the big decision they have to make,” he added.
There’s big pressure for Gilas to do well in the competition set for late-August, with the lone Asian slot for the Paris Olympics also at stake.
Gilas is in Group A along with Italy, favored to top the group, and old foes Dominican Republic and Angola.
During the leadup to the World Cup, Gilas is set for a training camp in Europe where it hopes to also arrange some exhibition games or pocket tournaments.
“It’s really a big thing for us to play for Gilas because it will be held at home, so we have to give our best,” Perez said in Filipino.
“Of course, we have to give our 110 percent in order for us to win,” he added.