Calvin Abueva in action against Iran’s Asghar Kardoust Poustinsaraei during the FIBA Asia Championship in Changsha in file photo. AP

Cadet program ideal for 2019 World Cup

MANILA, Philippines - A Gilas cadet program geared toward qualifying for the 2019 FIBA World Cup could be successful if put in motion as soon as possible.

Gilas assistant coach Jong Uichico said the program would entail a lot of hard work for the players to gain the needed maturity and competitiveness in time for the regional qualifier in 2017.

"There's a lot difference on what PBA players can give. They have a lot of exposure in the PBA. And because they play so many games, they gain so much experience, making them seasoned players," said Uichico.

"They don't need that much time to train. A month or two to get together, and they can be a competitive bunch," Uichico added.

He said that's the case for almost all the teams in Asia, including premiere teams China and Iran.

On the other hand, a cadet team, according to Uichico, needs a much longer preparation. They must train and play games here and abroad to gain the maturity needed to compete with mostly professional cagers playing in FIBA Asia.

But he expects the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas to take the "cadet" route over the old "pick-up" system from the PBA.

"That's the hand they're to deal with. If they're not lent players (from the PBA), of course they have to have their own program," said Uichico.

SBP vice chairman Ricky Vargas has hinted at reviving the Gilas cadet program after a number of pro players passed up invitation to be with the team that placed second to China in the just concluded FIBA Asia Championship.

"The PBA itself mentioned that option. They pointed us to go that way. We may follow them," said Vargas.

The MVP Group top executive said the SBP board is meeting soon to map out their plan for the next big international events.

"Will we get the players that we need from the PBA? We'll sit down with the SBP and with our patrons. We'll look at the reality," said Vargas.

"Should we kiss our Olympics hopes goodbye and should we just prepare for the World Cup in 2019. We'll see this through," Vargas added.

What looks definite is the formation of a cadet team.

"We have so many potential players for the cadet team. There are those who played for the SEABA and the SEA Games," said Uichico, pointing to Kiefer Ravena and his teammates.

Then there are the players from Talk n Text, Meralco and NLEX - the three PBA ball clubs of the MVP Group of Companies.

"For sure, if needed and we're instructed, we'll lend our players to the national team," said Uichico, head coach of the Talk n Text Tropang Texters.

This formula has been used by the SBP, producing a fourth-place finish in the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship in Wuhan, China.

The original Gilas team, featuring Marcus Douthit, Marcio Lassiter, Chris Lutz, Mark Barroca, Mac Baracael and Chris Tiu, was reinforced by Asi Taulava, Ranidel de Ocampo, Kelly Williams and Jimmy Alapag in Wuhan.

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