By Waylon Galvez
Gilas Pilipinas coach Yeng Guiao expects all 13 players named to the national team pool to show up when practice session starts for the two ll-important matches in the sixth and final window of the FIBA World cup Qualifier on Monday at the Philsports Arena (formerly ULTRA) in Pasig City.
Guiao and his coaching staff named 14 players to the pool, including 13 from the PBA which is throwing its all-out support to the national team despite the ongoing Philippine Cup.
“That’s what we asked (the PBA board),” said Guiao yesterday.
The 14 players named to the national team pool are Andray Blatche, the designated naturalized player, Jayson Castro, Mark Barroca, Paul Lee, Scottie Thompson, Marcio Lassiter, Gabe Norwood, Troy Rosario, Japeth Aguilar, Poy Erram, June Mar Fajardo, Raymond Almazan, and Roger Pogoy.
Almazan, however, is doubtful if he can join the scrimmages after he twisted his left ankle during practice.
Blacthe, the 6-foot-11 former NBA player who is under contract with Tianjin in China, is arriving Feb. 1 and by the time he arrives the league will be taking a break to give way for the daily practice sessions and actual participation of the national team in the qualifiers.
Christian Standhardinger is also included in the list as back-up naturalized player.
Gilas Pilipinas takes on Qatar on Feb. 21 before facing Kazakhstan on Feb. 25 – matches the Nationals can’t afford to lose if they want qualify to this year’s FIBA World Cup in China.
The practice session on Monday is the beginning of a twice a week training with Thursday (at Meralco gym) as the other day.
Guiao said part of the preparation is also a series of tune up matches in the Middle East before the main tournament.
“That’s that plan, from the Middle East we’ll go straight to Qatar for the first of two games, and then last is in Kazakhstan,” said Guiao.
The national team lost to Kazakhstan (92-88) and Iran (78-70) last December, which dropped the Philippines to fourth place with a 5-5 card in Group F behind Australia (9-1), Iran (7-3) and Japan (6-4).