Maybe we should send the Gilas Cadets to the FIBA Asia Cup instead?

Coach Chot Reyes just announced that the Gilas Cadets would resume their practice for the national team on June 20. He also enumerated the PBA players invited to join these training sessions: Jio Jalalon (Star), Mike Tolomia (Rain or Shine), Ed Daquioag (Meralco), RR Pogoy (TNT), Matthew Wright (Phoenix), Von Pessumal (GlobalPort), Kevin Ferrer (Ginebra), Carl Bryan Cruz (Alaska), Mac Belo (Blackwater), and Alfonzo Gotladera (NLEX). Mahindra and San Miguel Beer are the only PBA teams whose cadets (Russel Escoto and Arnold Van Opstal) were not on the list.

Interestingly enough, coach Chot also extended invitations to five players who are not currently playing in the PBA. One of them was Almond Vosotros, who last played for Blackwater but who has had experience training with the cadets. Another was Raymar Jose, who last played for the country in the 2016 SEABA Stankovic Cup in Thailand. Former Ateneo Blue Eagle and UAAP MVP Kiefer Ravena was also called up along with former Batang Gilas and 3×3 standout Kobe Paras, who just committed to Cal State Northridge in the US NCAA. Perhaps the strangest name, however, was that of 6’8 Filipino-German Christian Hermoso Standhardinger, who has never played in any Philippine league or for any Philippine team before.

Curiously left out were former UAAP superstars Jeron Teng and Ray Parks, Jr. Teng will play with Ravena, Jose, and Paras in the 3×3 team of the Philippines this year, while Parks is expected to return to the States to pursue his NBA dreams once again.

Given the composition of this team, especially considering its youth, it is reasonable to expect that they will be playing in the coming 2017 William Jones Cup in Taiwan and the 2017 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, but here’s a devil’s advocate question — what if THIS is the team we’ll send to the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup instead? What if, contrary to prevailing reason, we send a younger team to the FIBA Asia Cup and reserve our PBA veterans — none of whom have been named yet — for the SEA Games?

Doesn’t make sense? Actually, in the long run and given the schedule of the PBA’s third conference, this arrangement may make even more sense.

Why is that so?

Having the cadets play in the FIBA Asia Cup, which is a longer, more arduous campaign compared to the SEA Games, means the wear and tear on the veterans should not be much of an issue. And since the cadets, by the time the FIBA Asia Cup begins on August 8, will have been training together for about a month and a half, they should be at a better state of preparation and fitness compared to the veterans.

Remember that, based on the existing agreement between the PBA and the SBP, coach Chot can call up one veteran player per PBA team only 15 days before their tournament begins. It’d be a bigger risk in terms of fitness and chemistry for the PBA veterans to represent the country with just two weeks of lead time ahead of the FIBA Asia Cup in Beirut, Lebanon. They will probably be gone from their mother PBA clubs for a longer time, too, given the “recovery time” they will certainly need after the continental joust.

In my opinion, it’d be “safer” for the PBA veterans to be called up two weeks before the SEA Games, where they should be able to convincingly win the gold medal even without a naturalized player. I mean, if we had Calvin Abueva, Terrence Romeo, Troy Rosario, June Mar Fajardo, and Japeth Aguilar leading the way, Gilas should not have many problems at the SEA Games, right?

As for the cadets, however, I think they’d be better served licking their chops in the FIBA Asia Cup. It’d be the most competitive training ground for them in preparation for the FIBA Basketball World Cup Asia Qualifiers that begin in November, and it’d really sharpen them considering how a good number of them are expected to be elevated to the bona fide A-team of Gilas pretty soon anyway (Belo, Pogoy, Wright, Jalalon, Ravena, and Standhardinger come to mind).

Besides, since the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup doesn’t have any World Cup or Olympic berths up for grabs, the worst that could happen is Gilas fails to make it past the first round and loses some footing in the international rankings, and that’ll only happen with a really bad showing and not having any naturalized player. I think that’s a highly unlikely scenario, but even if it happens, it’s a rather small price to pay for the experience and maturity our cadets will gain in the long run.

If coach Chot and the SBP choose to go this route, I’m all for it. It’s unorthodox and will probably be unpopular, but, for the long-term betterment of Gilas, it should be at least worthy of serious consideration.

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