The unavailability of Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) players has forced the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) to tap collegiate stars to play for the Gilas Pilipinas in the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers next month.
SBP program director Tab Baldwin revealed that a number of collegiate standouts have already given their commitment to play for the national team alongside special Gilas draftees led by former Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. (Cesafi) Most Valuable Player Rey Anthony Suerte, Isaac Go, Allyn Bulanadi, and brothers Matt and Mike Nieto.
"We do have some players that have agreed to be part of it," Baldwin was quoted as saying on his guest appearance on the show SportsPage. However, the American-Kiwi coach did not disclose any names.
FIBA’s announcement of the second window of qualifying games being held in November has placed the SBP in a bind since it runs in conflict with the PBA’s staging of the Philippine Cup. The pro league conducting the tournament in a “bubble” setting also means no PBA player or coach will be allowed to go out of the Clark Freezone in Pampanga.
"We don't expect the PBA bubble to be able to be broken in any way. So you know at this point, we certainly are ruling out the inclusion of PBA players and coaches," Baldwin said.
"Now, that means that we have to either look at players overseas, and that are domiciled overseas, which again are going to be very difficult because they more than likely have schedules going on right now, or look into our college ranks which is probably the most likely and the one that coach Ryan (Gregorio) and I are spending most of our time working on right now," Baldwin added.
The next set of qualifying games will see the Gilas Pilipinas tangle with the likes of Korea, Thailand, and Indonesia.
"Really, what we want to do is finalize a roster as quickly as we can, and then we'll announce the roster, given that we're going to be going into a training camp and ultimately playing games in November," said Baldwin. (JNP)