Coming together

Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

Gilas has reassembled for two Monday practices since last week and coach Chot Reyes is liking what hes seeing. Neither session brought in the complete pool of 24 as Kai Sotto is still in Australia and five players in the Japanese B-League wont be here until a week before the sixth FIBA World Cup Asia qualifying window game against Lebanon at the Philippine Arena on Feb. 24.

Last Monday, 13 players showed up at the Meralco Gym and the cast included Ginebra stalwarts Justin Brownlee, Japeth Aguilar, Scottie Thompson and Jamie Malonzo. Reyes said the system isnt new to Brownlee as he practiced with Gilas during the fifth window preparations even as his naturalization was pending. Now that his naturalization is confirmed, Brownlee will suit up for Gilas in the coming window.

Reyes said hes not categorizing the Gilas players into a mold to suit their PBA teams. Theyre not Ginebra players with the national team, theyre Gilas players, he noted. So if the four Ginebra players are on the court, Reyes said theyll be running the Gilas system, not Ginebra. Of course, familiarity plays a big role in generating chemistry and it helps that Ginebra coach Tim Cone is in Reyesstaff focusing on defense.

Reyes said Calvin Oftana and Ange Kouame were indisposed and were excused from the second practice while Jerom Lastimosa, Francis Lopez and Kevin Quiambao also asked for a leave to play for The Strong Group in Dubai. Kouame was down with dengue and a touch of malaria. Hes the teams insurance backup as a naturalized player. For the World Cup, Jordan Clarkson will take over as Gilasnaturalized player. A national team may enlist only one naturalized player.

Reyes said last Mondays practice included 5x5 scrimmages. June Mar Fajardo, CJ Perez, RR Pogoy, Arvin Tolentino, Chris Newsome, Raymond Almazan, Deschon Winston, Carl Tamayo and Mason Amos also attended with the four Ginebra players. The goal is to mesh, said Reyes and its getting there even if the pool isnt complete. RayRay Parks, Thirdy and Kiefer Ravena, Dwight Ramos and Jordan Heading are flying in from Japan.

Returning to the Gilas pool is Heading who saw action in two games for the national squad in the FIBA Asia 2021 qualifiers and two games in the 2021 Olympic qualifiers in Belgrade. Heading averaged 10.5 points in the four contests. In Belgrade, he shot 16 in Gilas’ 94-67 loss to the Dominican Republic and 13 against Serbia in an 83-76 setback. “Weve been in contact with Jordan since last year and hes excited to rejoin us,” said SBP deputy executive director and Gilas team manager Butch Antonio. “One new guy who has impressed is Jerom. He was in our first session, hes solid and he can shoot. Coach Chot has a lot of talent to pick from and I expect since were playing two games in the sixth window, well maximize and adjust lineups.” Reyes said hell tweak the rosters for both contests with two or three players switching. FIBA allows a new 12 for each game for as long as the players come from the originally submitted pool (in Gilascase, a pool of 24) and it is turned in during the technical meeting the day before each contest.


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