Gilas Pilipinas head coach Yeng Guiao has made a number of surprising new choices in the most-recent 20-man training pool for the country’s campaign in the fifth window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup qualifiers.
Ginebra: Aguilar, Slaughter, Tenorio, Thompson
Rain or Shine: Belga, Norwood
SMB: Cabagnot, Fajardo, Standhardinger, Lassiter, Santos
TNT: Castro, Rosario
Magnolia: Lee, Sangalang
Amateur: R. Rivero, Sotto
— Dino Maragay (@dino_mars) November 6, 2018
The new Gilas mentor, who took the reins after former head coach Chot Reyes vacated the post in September 2018, has selected a training pool without any foreign naturalized players despite including two amateur players: incoming University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons transferee Ricci Rivero, who is sitting out his residency year after leaving the De La Salle Green Archers and 7’1″ Ateneo High School star Kai Sotto, the reigning UAAP Juniors Finals MVP who has reportedly piqued the interest of European powerhouse club Real Madrid.
Some are excited about the two upcoming stars’ recognition.
Kai Sotto at Ricci Rivero sa 20-man roster ng Gilas Pilipinas para sa 5th window ng Fiba Asia qualifiers
Just wow💪💪💪 nice line up!!!!!! Kaka excite manood!!
— Bonn Harvey (@Bnnlcntr) November 6, 2018
WOW KAI SOTTO AND RICCI RIVERO
THE LEVELLLL https://t.co/jIdyREI5Ty
— good friend (@basicgoodfriend) November 6, 2018
Former NBA player Andray Blatche, who suited up as the Philippines’ designated naturalized player since 2014, was left out of the training pool.
Christian Standhardinger and Stanley Pringle, both of whom have Filipino descent and are considered locals in other competitions, have been designated as the Gilas’ naturalized players for the 5th window.
Veteran PBA stars Arwind Santos and LA Tenorio, seldom called up for national team duties in recent years, have also been included in the training pool.
Gilas’ go-to gunner in the past few international competitions Terrence Romeo, was also left out of the list.
The exclusion of Blatche and Romeo, familiar faces in the Gilas lineup in the past few years, has been met with surprise from fans.
SBP is stupid enough to say that this pool will make the best Philippine team line up ever. Smfh. Without Blatche and Romeo, Gilas Pilipinas will never be the same.
— Philip Doce (@Philip010692) November 7, 2018
U don’t exprmnt on very https://t.co/gBvW8yWlWT , esp the qualifying rounds…you experiment on exhibition ..very bad decision imo.#GilasPilipinas invested on Andray Blatche why not bring him all the way…and Terrence Romeo ?..they were both slighted…..not very good sign…
— Lito Penaranda (@LBPenaranda) November 7, 2018
Both Blatche and Romeo were suspended after the bench-clearing brawl between the Philippines and Australia in July 2018 but are already eligible to return in time for the match against powerhouse Iran.
Jayson Castro and Troy Rosario who are also serving out suspensions and will be eligible for the match against Iran were named to the pool.
Tough decisions behind changes
Guiao said in interviews that he had factored in team chemistry in making some of the surprising selections.
“It was really a hard decision on our part. But we took into consideration the chemistry that has been built up from the Asian Games with Christian [Standhardinger] and Stanley [Pringle] there. There’s a really strong bond among the members and we want to preserve that,” he said after the announcement.
Guiao added that Blatche being eligible only for the game against Iran, the second scheduled matchup in the fifth window, was a factor in his decision.
“Second is since Andray is going to be available only on the Iran game, there’s some limitation to how we can utilize him,” Guiao explained.
He clarified that Blatche and Romeo will be considered for the 6th window of the qualifiers.
Guiao has also cited veterans Santos and Tenorio’s superb performance in the PBA as the reason for their surprise selection.
“They’ve just been playing well the past few games,” he said.
The first game of the fifth window will be on November 30 against Kazakhstan at the Mall of Asia Arena.