by Rey Joble
JAKARTA — As soon as the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas announced that Yeng Guiao will call the shots for Gilas Pilipinas in the next window of the FIBA Asia World Cup qualifier, his players from the Rain or Shine-Pilipinas team competing in the Asian Games affirmed their commitment to play once selected to represent the country.
One of the considerations Guiao mentioned is to bring in players who are familiar with his system and give importance on continuity on what they’ve started over the course three weeks of being together.
Two-time MVP James Yap, guard Chris Tiu and center/forward Raymond Almazan could be among those who might crack the 12-man roster as Guiao and the rest of the players pitch in for head coach Chot Reyes and the players who got suspended by FIBA following the free-for-all incident that happened during the match between the Philippines and Australia in the last window event.
“Anything for the national team I would always yes,” Tiu told FOX Sports Philippines in an exclusive interview. “Pagdating sa national team, OK ako. It has always been my dream to play for the country. “
“If I feel I can contribute for the team in whatever way, God willing and if I’m healthy, and everything falls into place, for sure, why not.”
Almazan, the 6-foot-7 frontliner who is back in the national team line up after not included in the last window, gave importance to the bonding that had developed in nearly two weeks of being together with his current and new teammates in the national team.
“Sa totoo lang parang ang tagal na naming magkakasama. Nagkakapalagayan na kami ng loob. Set aside muna mga mother teams namin, ito yung team namin sa ngayon,” added Almazan.
Yap, back playing for the national team after playing in his first and only other time also under Guiao in 2009, is willing to give his body another push.
“Anytime, para sa bayan,” added Yap. “Basta kailangan ako ni Coach Yeng, anytime.”
Gabe Norwood, one of the remaining three holdovers from the last team that played in the previous window, is delighted to learn that his old coach was given the task of forming the team for the next two games in the World Cup qualifier on Sept 14 and Sept 17.
“I’m happy for Coach Yeng to be given the opportunity to coach again, not just here, but also to continue to go on. It’s a great opportunity for him and it’s well-deserved,” added Norwood. “It’s an exciting time fir the country and it’s something to look forward.”
No other player in the national team has had more stints than Norwood and the standout from George Mason will be ready to represent the country again and continue the bond that developed within the group in a short period of time.
“It’s amazing. It’s a testament to the Rain or Shine management for volunteering half of the roster as well as the players who are familiar with Coach Yeng. Chemistry wasn’t a problem. It’s just a matter of getting everybody on the same page in terms of execution.”