Team Pilipinas finally kicked off its training camp for the fifth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers on Monday at the Meralco Gym in Ortigas, but a lot of notable names were missing.
Absent from the team’s Smart-backed practice session were Magnolia’s Paul Lee and Ian Sangalang, and Ginebra’s Greg Slaughter, Japeth Aguilar, LA Tenorio and Scottie Thompson. All six were seeing action in Game 2 of the PBA Governors’ Cup semifinals.
NorthPort’s Stanley Pringle and San Miguel’s Christian Standhardinger were also not in the venue.
Newly-minted head coach Yeng Guiao didn’t dwell on the fact that they were incomplete in his first official run as the program’s top tactician.
“Of course, I would have wanted that we were complete today, but we’re losing six guys to teams that are playing in the [PBA] semifinals right now. We’ll just have to be patient and we’ll keep practicing on Wednesday and Friday,” he told members of the media after the practice.
“They might come here and observe (tomorrow), but they still would not play because they’ll preserve themselves for the semifinals. Might as well just practice with who we have and what we have until the series is over.”
Instead, he was quick to laud the new players and said that he was happy so see them incorporate themselves into his system seamlessly and almost without any hitches.
“It’s still very early, but I don’t think I’ll be having problems in terms of chemistry and cohesion. ‘Yung leftover chemistry from the fourth window and in the Asian Games is still there,” he shared.
Members of the last FIBA window’s lineup — Gabe Norwood, Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter, Matthew Wright, Beau Belga and JP Erram — were flanked by Gilas mainstays June Mar Fajardo, Jayson Castro and Troy Rosario yesterday.
Arwind Santos, who last played for Guiao back in 2009 with Powerade Team Pilipinas, and cadets Ricci Rivero and Kai Sotto were also in attendance.
“The new guys coming in are very absorptive doon sa plays natin, very quick to make the adjustments. I know they’re coming from different systems and different styles, but the system is very simple anyway so madali naman silang nakapag-adjust even on our first day,” Guiao added.
He also bared that his assistant coaches, one of which is Rain or Shine mentor Caloy Garcia, are on their toes mixing up the lineups to make sure that every player is able to familiarize themselves with each other.
“The assistant coaches are really taking care of the combinations. I don’t really give them any specific instructions on who to combine in the five-on-five. Anybody should be able to play with anybody. ‘Yung combination natin dito, ‘di naman na ‘Ah eto lang ‘yung best combination, eto lang ‘yung pwedeng maglaro.’ Dapat homogenous ‘yung mga combinations natin,” Guiao explained.
Team Pilipinas will continue practices on Wednesday and Friday before they play a slew of exhibition games against Jordan on November 19 and 21 and Lebanon on 23 and 25 to bolster their preparations.
Guiao thinks that the team will have a long way to go before they hit their stride, but he’s pretty optimistic that they’ll get there soon given the depth and talent available at their disposal.
“I think we will see a little bit more of how good we really are in a week’s time. We can also get a glimpse of that pagdating ng exhibition natin. Pero I say this every time: iba ‘yung talent na nasa papel lang, iba ‘yung talent na nakikita mong naglalaro na at nagco-compete na. But that’s my responsibility, as I said: to maximize their potential,” said Guiao.
“But if you’re looking at it just at the face value, with the people that are here, ‘yun nga. I’m pretty confident that we can play well against Kazakhstan and Iran.”