Who will play for Gilas?

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

December has come and the task of organizing the national team to compete in the first window of the FIBA 2025 Asia Cup qualifiers in February and the Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in July is becoming more and more daunting. Time flies and before anyone knows it, Gilasinitial game in the FIBA 2025 Asia Cup qualifiers will just be around the corner. Who the national coach will be and who will be his players are two questions that SBP should resolve soonest.

SBP president Al Panilio yesterday disclosed that executive director Sonny Barrios retired last Nov. 16 and Erika Dy has been appointed as his replacement on an interim basis. “Sonnys retirement has been long coming as he actually indicated this to me if I remember accurately, late last year,” he said. “We discussed and convinced him to finish the World Cup. Erika has been appointed interim executive director until it has been ratified, approved by the SBP Board. I plan to call a Board meeting this month.”

Gilas will definitely be a priority on Dys plate. Coach Tim Cone is the popular choice to continue calling the shots for Gilas but he has obligations to consider with Barangay Ginebra and the PBA. If another coach is named, who will be his players? The PBA is in season and the Gilas players in Japan and Korea are similarly occupied during the first window. Leagues are obliged to release national players for FIBA-sanctioned competitions but for a limited period which is, of course, better than nothing. A cushion is the availability of college players since the UAAP and NCAA campaigns will be over by the end of the year.

The problem of recruiting an exclusive Gilas coach is how to deal with his lag time. When there are no FIBA games to play, what will he do and whom will he coach? If SBP enlists a pool of naturalized players, its the same predicament since they cant suit up in the PBA as locals. However, they may play as PBA imports, depending on whether they fit within height limits for reinforcements.

For the FIBA 2025 Asia Cup qualifiers, Gilas is scheduled to play in three windows. The first window is set against Hong Kong on the road on Feb. 22 and Chinese Taipei at home on Feb. 25. The second window will pit Gilas against New Zealand on Nov. 21 and Hong Kong on Nov. 24, both at home. The third window will send Gilas against Chinese Taipei on Feb. 20 and New Zealand on Feb. 23, both on the road next year.  Gilas will play in Riga, Latvia, against Latvia on July 3 and Georgia on July 4 in the OQT.

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