Ravena, Belo could headline revived Gilas cadet program

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Kiefer Ravena, Kevin Ferrer, Mac Belo and Mike Tolomia could possibly team up once more, this time as part of a revived Gilas cadet program being eyed by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas.

SBP deputy director for international affairs Butch Antonio said the cadet program, similar to the one handled by Serbian coach Rajko Toroman from 2009-2012, is being considered during the national governing body’s initial talks with Gilas coach Tab Baldwin.

“The coaches had an initial meeting already with coach Tab. We’re looking at the plans and we’ve informally discussed it with top management,” Antonio told FOX Sports on Friday.

“There are many options because we can make a Toroman-type or maybe a hybrid, a mix of both (programs) because you can still do a lot with experienced players” explained the SBP top official.

The Toroman setup was patterned after the national team during the 1980s, which was then bankrolled by Eduardo ‘Danding’ Cojuango.

After participating in various international competitions like the FIBA Asia Champions Cup, the FIBA Asia Stankovic Cup and the Asian Games in 2010, the national side known as Smart-Gilas and led by then amateur standouts Chris Tiu, JV Casio, Mark Barroca and Mac Baracael, placed fourth during the 2011 FIBA Asia men’s championships in Wuhan, China.

The following year, Smart-Gilas was disbanded, with a majority of the team members joining the PBA Draft.

While reviving the Gilas cadet program could be a logical choice given the new home-and-away format that FIBA is set to introduce beginning in 2017, Antonio explained that nothing is cast in stone as of the moment.

But he assured that the SBP is already thinking of ways to sustain the gains the Philippines has had in international competitions.

Under the FIBA’s new setup, the usual qualifying tournaments like the FIBA Asia men’s Championship will be scrapped, with the national team playing in home-and-away qualifiers that will be held in November, February, June, and September.

The setup could create a conflict in the PBA’s schedule, which usually holds its three-conference tournament from October to July.

Ravena and Ferrer were able to join Gilas Pilipinas’ practice last December, providing extra ‘warm bodies’ for the national pool, which held a once-a-week practice as part of its early preparation for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying tournament set in Manila from July 4-10.

Ravena, a two-time UAAP Most Valuable Player and Ateneo’s top gun for years, along with Ferrer, are well-versed with Baldwin’s system.

Both outgoing UAAP stars played under the American-Kiwi coach in 2015, leading the college-bannered Gilas cadet squad to men’s basketball championships in the SEABA (South East Asia Basketball Association) and Southeast Asian Games in Singapore.

By Richard Dy