LUCENA CITY— Coming up with the “Gilas 12” for next month’s SEABA Championships proved a tough decision for national team coach Chot Reyes and his coaching staff—until the final minute.
And following the Nationals’ 122-111 stunner over PBA-Team Luzon on Friday night, Reyes, along with his battle-tested assistants led by former national team mentor Jong Uichico, retreated back to their dugout at the Quezon Convention Center here to make a one final huddle.
In the end, the Gilas coaching staff picked cadets Matthew Wright, Jio Jalalon and Roger Pogoy to team up with naturalized player Andray Blatche, June Mar Fajardo, Jayson Castro, Japeth Aguilar, Calvin Abueva, Terrence Romeo, Raymond Almazan, Troy Rosario and Allein Maliksi in the May 12 to 18 event that serves as the qualifying event to the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup.
But a tinge of regret remains on Reyes, with some of his preferred cagers failing to make the cut due to usual roster limit constraints.
“If I had to choose 15, Kevin Ferrer, Carl Bryan Cruz, and Mike Tolomia would definitely be there,” he admitted. “So that should give you an idea how hard it was for us to make a decision. We had to go back to the dugout, have a quick discussion, and we just had to discuss in the end who will make the final lineup.”
However, Reyes believes they have formed the best Gilas possible—at least for the regional competition.
“I think it’s very balanced, it’s very versatile. It has size, and it’s a great combinations of rookies and veterans, rookies to the Gilas system, to the PBA, and veterans as well,” he said.
“This team is built on its flexibility and versatility. We know that in the international game, even the bigs can hit threes, so you have to be able to play defense and you have to be able to switch the ball screens and that’s the kind of lineup that we have. I like our ability to do what we were just doing today.”
Make no mistake about it, however, the latest Gilas lineup is built to win the SEABA tilt, said Reyes.
“I don’t want to call it the Final 12 because this is the SEABA 12, and I told the players to keep working hard because if we win SEABA, we have the Fiba Asia (Cup), and then the Southeast Asian Games and the World Cup qualifiers to look forward to. For now, that is the SEABA 12,” he said.
“That’s exactly what I told them. This is merely the SEABA 12. In the future, there are players in the team who are in the team because we want to get a look at them in international competition, and that’s going to form our decision on FIBA Asia, if we make it, SEA Games, Jones Cup, and the World qualifiers. There’s still a lot of tournaments for this team and like I said, this is just the first step.”
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