The Gilas Pilipinas team, which is scheduled to leave for Beirut past midnight on Tuesday, August 23, is all beefed up with a hybrid mix of pro and collegiate standouts behind Utah Jazz star Jordan Clarkson and seven-foot-three Kai Sotto when they face Lebanon in the FIBA World Cup qualifiers fourth window on August 25.
The 13-man Gilas wrapped up its team practice on Monday morning, August 23, at the Meralco Gym.
Gilas coaching staff
The Gilas coaching staff, headed by Chot Reyes, named Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings Scottie Thompson, Philippine Basketball Association’s (PBA’s) reigning most valuable player, and Japeth Aguilar, a two-time World Cup veteran, as the newest reinforcements to complete the roster that also consists of Meralco’s Chris Newsome, NorthPort’s Jamie Malonzo, NLEX’s Calvin Oftana, Roosevelt Adams, Bobby Ray Parks Jr., Dwight Ramos, brothers Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena, and Carl Tamayo.
This was bared by Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) executive director and spokesperson Sonny Barrios on Monday during the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum that was held online.
Aguilar just recently recovered from his COVID-19 infection.
Barrios said, “Our medical team headed by Dr. Randy Molo cleared him. Actually, he’s fine. It’s not like he has anything bothersome or major.”
He said the Gilas coaching staff wanted Aguilar in the team as they all like him and he’s Tim Cone’s player. He was not able to join the Nationals’ training camp due to precautionary isolation.
The team ready to bounce back with Clarkson and Satto
The Philippines national men’s team will try to avenge its 80-95 loss to Lebanon in the Asia Cup held in Jakarta, Indonesia in July.
“The energy is very high,” Barrios said of the team’s 13-man composition.
He also said that Clarkson, who last played for the country in the 2018 Asian Games, has been blending well with his current Gilas teammates.
Barrios added, “Jordan adapts very well with his teammates, very comfortable siya (he’s very comfortable), and he can relate very much to the three senior coaches.” He was referring to Reyes, Cone, and Jong Uichico.
Clarkson was spotted at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Sunday, August 22, during Game 1 of the PBA Philippine Cup best-of-seven finals series between the San Miguel Beermen and TNT Tropang Giga. Senator Christopher “Bong” Go posted his selfie photos with Clarkson on his Facebook page.
He said the refurbished Gilas squad will utilize “fast ball movement and patient shot selection.”
Coach Vucinic’s take
The Gilas is seeing action sans Serbian-Kiwi coach Nenad Vucinic who earlier decided not to extend his contract with the team as he is pursuing an opportunity in New Zealand.
Barrios said Vucinic did not resign as his contract is only up to August. “He decided not to stay so he can pursue other opportunities, I believe, in New Zealand. So it was not like he resigned in the middle of a contract,” he said, assuring that the Gilas has a strong coaching staff.
The 57-year-old Vucinic mentored the Gilas during the third window in July on an interim basis, wherein the New Zealand Tall Blacks crushed the Nationals before staging a huge comeback win over India. He was also part of the coaching staff of the Gilas team that finished ninth overall in the FIBA Asia Cup in Jakarta, Indonesia.