New Gilas team unleashed next month
Isaac Go, Rey Suerte, Allyn Bulanadi, Matt Nieto and Mike Nieto
New Gilas team unleashed next month
John Bryan Ulanday (The Philippine Star) - January 3, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Gilas Pilipinas’ Andray Blatche era is over as the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas starts its journey towards the 2023 FIBA World Cup by fielding a “hybrid team” in the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers starting next month.

SBP president Al Panlilio hinted at a team featuring Gilas cadets Isaac Go, Rey Suerte, Allyn Bulanadi and twin brothers Matt and Mike Nieto to be reinforced by PBA players, at least in the opening window of the regional eliminator in February.

“It’s still for assessment but most probably, not (with) Andray anymore,” Panlilio yesterday told The STAR.

Blatche, at 33, could be done donning the Gilas jersey.

The 6-foot-11 NBA veteran has been the country’s naturalized player since 2014. He anchored Gilas’ climb in the international stage highlighted by a second-place finish in the 2015 Changsha Asian meet and back-to-back appearances in the FIBA World Cup.

“We start our 2023 journey,” said Panlilio of a campaign that is likely to hinge on young players led by Go, Suerte, Bulanadi and the Nieto twins.

These five players made themselves available in the last PBA Rookie Draft accepted by the PBA on a special arrangement with the national cage federation.

They were put in a special Gilas draft with Go being drafted by Columbian Dyip, Suerte by Blackwater, Matt Nieto by NLEX, Bulanadi by Alaska and Mike Nieto by Rain or Shine.

The SBP-PBA agreement is that these five players will only be allowed to play for their PBA mother teams once they’re done serving duty to Gilas.

Earlier this week, the SBP has added Ateneo stalwart Thirdy Ravena and UP’s two-way player Jaydee Tungcab in the Gilas cadet pool.

Six games in three windows over a 12-month period are scheduled for the Philippines in Group A of the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers.

The Philippines will engage Thailand at home on Feb. 20 then travels to play Indonesia on Feb. 23, South Korea on Nov. 27 and Thailand on Nov. 30.  Gilas will wind up its double round-robin Group A assignments against Indonesia on Feb. 18 and South Korea on Feb. 21, both at home next year.

Eliminations for the FIBA Asia Cup started in February last year with sub-zone pre-qualifiers involving 15 teams. Struck out were United Arab Emirates, Oman, Brunei, Cambodia, Maldives, Bhutan and Nepal.  Then the regional pre-qualifiers took out Bangladesh, Fiji, Singapore and Macau, advancing 14 to the main draw.

The 24 remaining contenders for 16 slots in the FIBA Asia Cup are split into six groups of four with games set from Feb. 20 this year to Feb. 21 next year.  In Group A are the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and South Korea.  Group B is made up of Chinese-Taipei, Japan, Malaysia and China.  Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Guam are in Group C while Bahrain, Lebanon, India and Iraq comprise Group D.  In Group E are Saudi Arabia, Syria, Qatar and Iran. Jordan, Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka and Palestine compose Group F.

ALLYN BULANADI ANDRAY BLATCHE GILAS ISAAC GO MATT AND MIKE NIETO REY SUERTE
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