The turnout of players during the Gilas Pilipinas’ first day of training for the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers fifth window pleased head coach Chot Reyes as naturalized candidate Justine Brownlee and naturalized player Angelo Kouame along with PBA players showed up at the Meralco Gym on Monday, September 19.
Players from San Miguel Beer, TNT, and Barangay Ginebra were also in attendance.
CJ Perez was the lone Beerman though as six-time Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo was not able to attend as he was not feeling well.
Gin Kings Japeth Aguilar and Jaime Malonzo joined the practice while injured teammate Scottie Thompson was present in civilian clothes.
New TNT recruit Calvin Oftana joined his Tropang Giga teammate Roger Pogoy as John Paul Erram is currently in the US.
Players from other PBA teams also turned up for practice – NorthPort’s Arvin Tolentino and Meralco’s Chris Newsome.
Former Ateneo standout William Navarro also resumed his national duties as part of the Gilas Pilipinas team pool along with Francis Lopez.
Gilas coach Reyes
Reyes said, “I’m very pleased with the turnout. Unfortunately, June Mar is sick and he even failed to attend his San Miguel practice. Then, Carl Tamayo had a practice with UP until 8 p.m. Scottie got injured in their practice game, but at least he’s here and we’re missing June Mar and Carl Tamayo. But I’m really pleased, not only with the turnout but also the engagement and participation of the players.”
He also said that Perez and Brownlee came in for the first time.
The veteran coach was also upbeat about the presence of young players, the likes of Kouame,, Lopez, and Navarro.
“Because we want to continue that process, whether they make it to the final line up for the window or not, but at least, they’re continuing to be part of the long-term program,” he said.
The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas also bared that Japanese B.League imports Dwight Ramos and brothers Kiefer Ravena also committed to play in Fiba’s fifth window away games against Jordan and Saudi Arabia in November.
Movement for Gilas players
Currently 3-3 in Group E, the Philippines will try for a sweep sans Utah Jazz star Jordan Clarkson who is resuming his club duties for the upcoming NBA season.
Meanwhile, Navarro, in an Instagram statement on Thursday, September 22, said he apologized to SBP executive director Sonny Barrios for the “miscommunication” among his camp, the SBP, and the KBL.
He wrote, “I now fully recognize that I have an existing contract with the SBP and am aware of its provision regarding the rights of my PBA drafting team through the PBA special draft, NorthPort Batang Pier.”
“Since the fallout of my actions, I have sought professional assistance and am now once again under the [counsel] of a management team that will assist me with contracts and commitments moving forward.”
He, however, implied seeking a release from his PBA and SBP commitments, saying: “I seek the kind understanding and generosity of the SBP, the PBA, and the NorthPort Batang Pier team to give me a chance to pursue my and my family’s dreams for my basketball career,” he wrote. “I pledge to abide by whatever decision they may arrive at regarding my case.”
The six-foot-six Navarro assured that he remains available for Gilas whenever he is needed amid the ongoing contractual dispute.
“With this apology and clarification, I trust that we will all be united for the good of Gilas Pilipinas and Philippine basketball,” he ended.
Navarro to join Gilas
The SBP, for its part, released a statement that it respects players’ rights to look for greener pastures, underscoring the need for players to also honor their agreements with their teams.
The Korea Basketball Association (KBA), according to SBP, requested FIBA for a Letter of Clearance (LOC) for William Raniel Navarro to play for the Samsung Thunders in Korea.
“However, Mr. Navarro has an existing contract to play for the national team, attend activities, practices, social and business functions; and with his undeniable agreement, be assigned to only and no other team or ballclub than his PBA drafting team, the North Port Batang Pier,” the statement reads.
FIBA, after carefully reviewing the positions of the KBA and the SBP, issued its decision on September 12, 2022, disallowing Navarro to join the Samsung Thunders. Fiba upheld that he still has an existing, legally binding contract preventing him from doing so.
“The SBP does not intend to unduly prevent players from furthering their careers with other teams here or overseas. But it is a fundamental and ethical practice for players to honor their existing contracts with their mother teams,” the national governing body of basketball added.
A Letter of Clearance (LOC), SBP adds, is FIBA’s policy of upholding the sanctity of an existing, legally binding contract whenever the issue of Player Transfer comes about so that proper order is maintained among all stakeholders.