After just two practice sessions, coach Yeng Guiao already knows who he wants for Team Pilipinas’ next mission.
Of the 20 aspirants, Guiao already has six players in mind who would form the Philippine team for the resumption of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
Now in its fifth window of qualifications, the men’s national team takes on Kazakhstan on November 30 and Iran on December 3, with both games to be played inside the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.
The Philippines is currently at third place in Group F with a 5-3 win-loss card. Iran occupies the second spot with a 6-2 slate while Kazakhstan is at fifth at 3-5.
Guiao presided over day 2 of national team practice inside the Meralco Gym in Ortigas, with 12 of the 20 pool players showing up for the Wednesday evening session. Absent due to the ongoing PBA Governors’ Cup semifinal series were players from Ginebra San Miguel and Magnolia.
Stanley Pringle and Alex Cabagnot also missed the second day of practices.
Guiao bared part of his shortlist for the Final 12 with the qualifiers about two weeks away.
“Of course, si June Mar (Fajardo), si Jayson (Castro). Si Jayson of course sa Iran game na lang yan [available because of his suspension]. Then si Marcio (Lassiter). There’s around five or six guys na I feel na hindi mo na pag-iisipan masyado. Then the rest is a toss-up,” said Guiao revealed.
“If you are looking for 12 guys, makaka-speculate ka na doon sa anim kung sino ‘yon more or less. Then doon sa other six, pag-uusapan pa,” Guiao quipped.
Fajardo will be coming off a shin injury that sidelined him for the majority of the Governors’ Cup. Castro, on the other hand, has completed his three-game suspension stemming from the Philippine-Australia “basketbrawl” last July, making “The Blur” eligible for the December 3 joust against Iran.
Meanwhile, Lassiter, a member of the pioneering Gilas Pilipinas program, was recently enlisted by Guiao for the fourth window of World Cup qualifiers last September, wherein Team Pilipinas split its matches against Iran (73-81) and Qatar (92-81).
As a build-up for the two home games, tune-up matches against two Asian teams are slated for the Philippine quintet. The nationals will take on Jordan on November 19 and 21, followed by Lebanon on November 23 and 25.
With just four days away from the scrimmage against Jordan, Guiao may opt to just field the 12 players who showed up Wednesday night, which includes cadet players Kai Sotto and Ricci Rivero.
“Ito na muna yung sa Monday game. Yung six or seven guys na wala pa, I don’t they’ll be ready to play against Jordan. I’ll try to get them ready for the Wednesday game,” shared Guiao.