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PBA, SBP partnership a work in progress

MANILA, Philippines — PBA commissioner Chito Narvasa is confident that the pro league’s partnership with the SBP in forming a competitive national squad will get stronger as Gilas gains more experience in tackling the challenge of FIBA’s new home-and-away format to qualify for the World Cup and the Olympics.

“The whole concept of our partnership is to provide competition for the Gilas players, not just training,” said Narvasa. “Right now, we’re testing different ways to work together. As we go along, we expect to make mistakes which we’ll correct until we find the best approach. It’s still a work in progress. But we’re committed to stand together to make our partnership work. The key is to make sure both the PBA and Gilas will benefit from this partnership.”

Less than 50 days remain before the Philippines makes its debut in the FIBA home-and-away qualifiers against Japan at the Komazawa Olympic Park General Sports Ground Gymnasium in Tokyo on Nov. 24. The venue was used for volleyball at the 1958 Asian Games and 1964 Olympics. It has a capacity of 3,474 in the stands with an additional 1,120 seats on a temporary basis. The gym has hosted competitions in futsal, taekwondo, indoor archery and indiaca aside from volleyball and basketball.

Gilas’ second game in the qualifiers will be against Chinese-Taipei at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Nov. 27. Both contests will be held before the next PBA season opens on Dec. 17. Under the terms of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the PBA and SBP, Gilas cadets may be released by their mother teams for national team training 60 days and veterans 15 days before a sanctioned competition.  Each PBA team may be tapped for at least one veteran and one cadet. Since the Nov. 24 and 27 games are scheduled during the PBA off-season, it opens the possibility of multiple recruits from several PBA teams.

At the recent FIBA Asia Cup in Lebanon, three PBA teams – Rain Or Shine, Alaska and TNT KaTropa – were represented by two players each while San Miguel Beer, Barangay Ginebra, Star, GlobalPort and Phoenix contributed one apiece. Gabe Norwood and Raymond Almazan were from Rain Or Shine, Jayson Castro and R. R. Pogoy from TNT and Calvin Abueva and Carl Bryan Cruz from Alaska. JuneMar Fajardo came from San Miguel Beer, Japeth Aguilar from Ginebra, Jio Jalalon from Star, Terrence Romeo from GlobalPort and Matthew Wright from Phoenix. There has been a clamor from fans to add Ginebra’s 7-foot center Greg Slaughter to the lineup.

“It’s up to each team to release more than one cadet and one veteran,” said Narvasa. “In setting the calendar for the next season, we took into consideration the timetable of the FIBA qualifying windows. We’ll schedule the conferences with imports during the qualifying windows so teams that give up players may be able to fill the gaps. The goal is to keep both the PBA and Gilas strong. If a PBA team gives up three or four players, how will it survive? The idea isn’t to cripple a PBA team. We want every PBA team to remain competitive because that’s the spirit of our partnership with the SBP.”

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Narvasa explained that the Gilas system of recruitment will be anchored on the exposure to tough competition in the PBA. “We want the Gilas players to get used to playing under pressure in the PBA,” he said. “They’ll get better with the exposure. You don’t get better only by training. It’s why we’re trying to align our rules with FIBA. Of course, we’ll always maintain what we call our PBA house rules but as much as possible, we want to play according to FIBA rules. The Gilas pool of players will be constantly changing and we expect the rotation to come from the PBA.”

Narvasa said the MOA stipulates a partnership only for sanctioned tournaments like FIBA qualifiers for the World Cup and the Olympics, the FIBA Asia Cup and the Asian Games.

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