School over Gilas?

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

Theres a looming conflict in the schedule of games involving varsity players from the UAAP and Gilas. It was recently announced that the Philippinestwo games against South Korea on Nov. 25 and 28 in the first FIBA Asia World Cup qualifying window will be postponed to February. The second window will feature Gilas playing against India and New Zealand also in February.

While no dates are set for the South Korea games, the understanding is they will be held possibly a week before the start of the second window. All the games will be staged in Clark. In the second window, the Philippines will face India on Feb. 25 and New Zealand on Feb. 28. In the third window, it will be Gilas against India on June 30 and New Zealand on July 3 at a still undetermined site.

The UAAP is hoping to start its basketball season on Feb. 19. That will run smack into Gilasschedule in the first two qualifying windows up to Feb. 28. Gilas will likely be closeted in a bubble for training at least a month before the FIBA contests. The conflict doesnt only involve players but also coaches. Gilas head coach Tab Baldwin and assistant Sandy Arespacochaga are both with the Ateneo squad. The Gilas players in UAAP rosters are RJ Abarrientos of FEU, Carl Tamayo of UP, Justine Baltazar of La Salle and SJ Belangel, Geo Chiu and Ange Kouame of Ateneo.

Without the UAAP players, Gilas will be hard-pressed to assemble a full lineup. Both Kai Sotto and Dwight Ramos may be unavailable although there is an unwritten rule that clubs should allow players a leave to participate in FIBA tournaments. Sotto will be in the thick of action with Adelaide in the Australian league while Ramos will be in the Japan league during the first two qualifying windows. Isaac Go, the Nieto brothers, Jordan Heading, Tzaddy Rangel, Jaydee Tungcab, Rey Suerte and Allyn Bulanadi will likely form the core of the squad as they were all picked in the Gilas “specialPBA draft for Seasons 45 and 46.

Actually, there is no pressure for Gilas to qualify for the next FIBA World Cup because the Philippines, as lead co-host, is assured of a ticket to play in 2023. Gilas could theoretically be winless through the six qualifying windows and still make it to the World Cup. But for sure, thats not on Baldwins mind. Hell want Gilas to be competitive and ready to win in every game as it should.

If there is a choice between playing for the school or playing for Gilas, what will be the priority? Surely, a compromise could be agreed on. SBP special assistant to the president Ryan Gregorio said the issue is an “interesting insightand he will find clarity in settling the matter. If the UAAP receives the green light to resume training by next month preparatory to a season opening in February, it will mean recalling the Gilas varsity players back to campus. But if Gilas reopens camp soon, where will players like Kouame, Belangel, Chiu, Abarrientos, Baltazar and Tamayo report? Its a question that needs to be answered soon.

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