As Malonzo and Williams beg off, Chot Reyes left to grapple with Gilas ‘realities’
With the Philippine Basketball Association’s championship series done, Gilas Pilipinas is expecting an improvement in training camp attendance, which should augur well for the Philippines’ redemption mission in the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
But there’s a catch.
Barangay Ginebra’s Jamie Malonzo and TNT’s Mikey Williams—two marquee names in the 28-man pool from which the Gilas roster for Cambodia will be built—will be missing action, national coach Chot Reyes revealed to the Inquirer in a lengthy interview over the phone on Tuesday.
“Jamie has begged off. He has to attend to some personal matters back in the United States. We also wanted to [have] Mikey but I think he left [the Philippines] already because his father is getting married. He had to be there,” he said.
Also unlikely to join Gilas is AJ Edu, the 6-foot-10 former Batang Gilas ace, who is neck-deep in academic duties.
“So we have issues like those,” Reyes pointed out. “We’d love to have Japeth [Aguilar as well] but I don’t think he’s anywhere 100 percent. We don’t want to risk it because remember, our big picture [goal] here is the World Cup (in August).”
Those are just some of the many realities that Gilas has to grapple with going into the regional showcase it used to rule for decades.
But for Reyes, those are just that—realities. What he intends to do now is to make the most out of the days between Wednesday and the team’s projected flight on May 6 to determine the best possible combinations to regain the SEA Games gold the Philippines used to hold—and flex.
The absences should worry the casual observer, but another reality within the Gilas quarters is that it could now field several players it doesn’t usually get to utilize alongside a designated naturalized player during non-Fiba (International Basketball Federation) competitions. Top-flight players who have been shelved due to that restriction are Christian Standhardinger and Stanley Pringle.
The Cambodia showcase only requires a passport to be deemed eligible to represent a country.
If anything, the shortage in marquee names should allow for some amateurs to step up to the plate. Schonny Winston and Jerom Lastimosa—two crafty guards that have been splendid in the UAAP—have long been training with Gilas since the last window of the Fiba World Cup qualifiers.
“We’re doing everything to win this SEA Games, of course, we want to get the gold,” he said. “This is why I hope people appreciate our situation.”
“We just give an honest assessment. These are the players that we have. And these are the players who are out,” Reyes said. “We’re putting together the best available team. There’s a lot of talent, but who’s available? Who’s a hundred percent? Those are just some considerations we have to talk about.”
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