by Waylon Galvez
ASTANA, Kazakhstan – If and when Gilas Pilipinas qualifies to the FIBA World Cup this year in China, and with the country hosting the Southeast Asian Games later this year, players from the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) will be available to the national team.
PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial reiterated the league’s commitment to make available the best players for various international meets including the World Cup and the SEA Games.
“Our (PBA) board chairman Mr. Ricky Vargas has been saying that ‘let us send our very best (players), and our very best is in the PBA,’” Marcial said Sunday morning as the national team prepares for its all-important game against Kazakhstan in the World Cup qualifiers.
“We cannot say no to the chairman and our countrymen. It could well be a hectic schedule for our Gilas players if we qualify to the World Cup as there is also the SEA Games where they will also play in December,” he added.
Gilas beat Qatar 84-46 last Thursday in Doha to improve to 6-4 but remains at fourth spot in Group F. Australia is still on top with a 10-1 record following its win over Kazakhstan 81-60, while Japan and Iran are tied for second and third at 7-4 after the Japanese edged the Iranians in Tehran, 97-89.
In Group E, New Zealand leads all teams with a 10-1 card, followed by South Korea at 9-2, while Jordan, China and Lebanon are tied at 6-4.
The top three teams from each group get outright slots in the FIBA World Cup, while China, as host, is automatically qualified. The ‘fourth best’ team in both groups based on their respective records after the elimination round gets the last spot for Asia in the World Cup.
The league’s support to the national team isn’t new.
The PBA has been providing players to the Gilas program since 2011 when Asi Taulava, Kelly Williams, Jimmy Alapag and Ranidel de Ocampo played for Serbian coach Rajko Toroman.
Even during the stints of coach Chot Reyes and American Tab Baldwin, and until Guiao took over late last year, the PBA has been there supporting the national team.