Chot Reyes sees bright future for Gilas program despite failed World Cup bid | Inquirer Sports

Chot Reyes sees bright future for Gilas program despite failed World Cup bid

/ 05:25 AM September 09, 2023

Kai Sotto Gilas Pilipinas Fiba World Cup

Gilas Pilipinas center Kai Sotto scores against China in the Fiba World Cup. -MARLO CUETO/

(Last of a series)

Even after a baffling Fiba World Cup homestand, former national coach Chot Reyes is steadfast in his belief that the Gilas Pilipinas program is sound.


Structurally, at least.


“The foundation has been laid. The players are there, the size is there,” he told the Inquirer on Wednesday, referring to the twin towers of Kai Sotto and AJ Edu.

Reinforcing that belief is the fact that the 21-year-old Sotto and the 23-year-old Edu are surrounded by a bevy of noteworthy players that can grow in number in a few years.

“If Kai and AJ continue to make themselves available, we have a very strong, good, young core of Rhenz (Abando) … Dwight (Ramos) who are both 25 years old,” Reyes pointed out. “And then up and coming from [the] Under-17, Under-18 classes: Mason Amos, Alex Konov. We have guards available, too, like Elijah Williams.”

And then there’s the country’s leading professional league that continues to lend its players to the national cause.

“So there’s a core, and then the PBA continues to also make its core available. I think the foundation has been laid,” Reyes, who has stepped down as national coach, said. “Structurally, we’re OK. We just need to continue working together.”

All that optimism comes despite what he deemed a “failure” for the national squad, which missed its targets of winning two games in the global showcase and qualifying outright to the 2024 Paris Olympics. But whether or not that optimism will be enough for the program to be truly successful is another conversation altogether.



Reyes felt that this World Cup was an opportunity to showcase the program’s strengths, especially when it came to having the right players for the national team. But a few unfortunate events got in the way.

“[Player availability] shouldn’t have been a problem because everyone made sacrifices for this World Cup. The PBA (opened its pool of players), we got the players in Japan and Korea early. But we just couldn’t do anything about the availability of Jordan Clarkson,” he said.

And speaking of Clarkson, Reyes said that the Philippines is inherently at a disadvantage because of the Utah Jazz star’s inability to play as a local.

“Lugi talaga tayo. The [Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas] has been trying to talk to Fiba about it for the longest time because other teams have [players who have] no [ethnic heritage] at all,” he said.

Clarkson traces his Filipino lineage through his grandmother Marcelina Tullao Kingsolver, who hails from Bacolor town in Pampanga province. But that, along with an Asian Games stint from five years ago, was not enough to convince the international body to allow the naturalized guard to play as local in Fiba events.

“I think they should allow Jordan to play as a local because he has Filipino blood, and it’s very clear, and then allow us to get a 6-foot-10 American or whatever (as a naturalized player). I think that will really go a long way for this,” said Reyes.

Chris Newsome, a Filipino-American guard who was first recruited by Norman Black to play for the national team, has been deemed ineligible as a local as he never gained a Philippine passport before he was 16. He finally got an exemption in 2022, allowing him to suit up alongside Clarkson and another naturalized player in Justin Brownlee.

A Clarkson clearance would’ve allowed the Philippines to field Brownlee or even Ange Kouame in the World Cup, providing the squad versatility.

Best recourse

For now, the program’s best recourse is to keep relying on the best possible talent. Something that Reyes was cornered into doing for most of his time with the national team.

“It’s just player availability,” he said when asked to simplify the root cause of Gilas’ problems that bled into the World Cup.

“But player availability is [a] ticklish [issue]. On one end, it’s going to be a mandate of the national federation [or] the leagues,” he said. “[On the other end], will the players want to (suit up)? Or not?”

Of the 21 names identified to train for the World Cup, two begged off. Carl Tamayo said he intends to focus on strengthening his knee, while Jordan Heading prioritized rehabilitating his back. Poy Erram was part of the training camp in Estonia and Lithuania but was later ruled out for the final phase of the preparations after going through a long overdue knee surgery.

Then there was Justine Baltazar—a two-way forward and a fan favorite—who turned down Gilas’ two invites according to Reyes.

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“Player availability will cover talent and preparation. [But] you have to be available for an ample time the team requires. You cannot say that you’ll be available one week to go or two weeks,” Reyes said with a sigh.

“If we started training at full strength as early as July 25, that would’ve made a great difference in our play,” he said.


Chot Reyes talks about Gilas Pilipinas disappointment at Fiba World Cup (Part 1)
As logistical woes bogged Gilas preps, Chot says Clarkson ended up carrying the offense (Part 2)

TAGS: Chot Reyes, Fiba World Cup, Gilas Pilipinas

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