Gilas head coach Yeng Guiao with SBP special assistant to the president Ryan Gregorio, team manager Gabby Cui and Andray Blatche.
Gilas to miss PBA finalists in Spain
Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - July 15, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Gilas players involved in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals starting Aug. 7 will miss the team’s training trip to Spain on Aug. 4-12 even as coach Yeng Guiao is expected to make full use of the exposure in bonding the rest of the local pool with naturalized import Andray Blatche.

At the moment, the Gilas pool is made up of JuneMar Fajardo, R. R. Pogoy, Marcio Lassiter, Troy Rosario, Raymond Almazan, Paul Lee, Gabe Norwood, Kiefer Ravena, Poy Erram, Mark Barroca, C. J. Perez, Robert Bolick, Matthew Wright, Japeth Aguilar and Blatche. Beau Belga and Stanley Pringle are volunteer practice players.

“The lineup is not yet firm,” said SBP special assistant to the president Ryan Gregorio. “It should be announced this week. We’ve been practicing twice a week since the first week of July.”

Team manager Gabby Cui said it’s possible that Belga and Pringle will be included in the cast for Spain, assuming their teams don’t make it to the PBA Finals. “We’ll need extra bodies, depending on who makes it to the Finals,” he said. “If TNT and San Miguel Beer reach the Finals, R. R., Troy, Marcio and JuneMar will stay.” Cui noted that assuming every playoff series goes the distance, the semifinals will end on Aug. 3.

In Spain, the Philippines will play in a pocket tournament with Congo and the Ivory Coast in Guadalajara, 60 kilometers northeast of Madrid, on Aug. 6-7. Ivory Coast is one of five African countries that qualified for the FIBA World Cup in China. The others are Angola, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia.  The Ivory Coast head coach is Nacho Lezcano, who was a Gilas consultant during the 2014 FIBA World Cup. Most of the Ivory Coast players are imports in leagues in France, Spain, Macedonia, Morocco and Georgia. Congo will not play in the coming World Cup. One of the Congolese national players is former CEU import Rodrigue Ebondo.

From Guadalajara, Gilas will move to Malaga where the team will play Congo again and the winner of the Ivory Coast-Spain contest on Aug. 9-10. Cui said Gilas will not contract a Spanish coach to assist in the trip.

From Spain, Gilas will return to Manila where it is scheduled to play against the Australian club Adelaide 36ers under head coach Joey Wright who played as a PBA import with Presto in 1992. Wright, 50, was the Phoenix Suns second round draft pick in 1991. The friendlies with the 36ers are set on Aug. 23 and 25.

The 36ers roster includes 6-11 Daniel Johnson of Pepperdine, 6-11 NBL Rookie of the Year Harry Froling of Marquette, 6-8 import Eric Griffin of Campbell University, 6-4 import Ramone Moore of Temple, 6-2 import Deshon Taylor of Fresno State, 6-4 Daniel Dillon of the University of Arizona and 6-6 Anthony Drmic of Boise State. Griffin, 29, played in Italy, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, United Arab Emirates, Dominican Republic, Israel and Poland before landing in Australia. Taylor, 23, averaged 17.9 points, 3.7 rebounds and five assists in 28 games as a Fresno State senior this past season. Moore, 30, has played in Ukraine, Lithuania, Hungary, Israel and Italy.

Cui said TNT active consultant Mark Dickel, an NBL veteran from New Zealand, played a key role in arranging the Adelaide friendlies. It will mark the first basketball reunion between the Philippines and Australia since their brawl during the FIBA Asia/Oceania World Cup Qualifiers at the Philippine Arena in July last year. “We’re calling it the Goodwill Games,” said Cui. “Mark helped us bridge to the Aussies. He knows a lot of the NBL guys.”

Blatche arrived from Atlanta last Friday and will report for Gilas practice tonight. “Our initial impression of Dray is that he looks good,” said Cui. “We’re making sure that Dray will face hardcore competition before the World Cup.”

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