By JONAS TERRADO
Gilas Pilipinas will miss the services of PBA stars Christian Standhardinger and Japeth Aguilar due to various reasons for the first window of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers slated later this month.
Standhardinger said he’ll skip the two qualifying games against Thailand and Indonesia to rest his recurring problem on his left knee while program director Tab Baldwin said Aguilar and his wife, the former Cassandra Naidas, are scheduled to go on a long overdue honeymoon.
Baldwin and Mark Dickel, who was assigned to call the shots on an interim basis, admitted that their absence leaves them worried about the lack of big men Gilas has for upcoming window.
“Obviously, what’s a little bit alarming is that it seems that all of our issues are resting with our big men,” Baldwin said after Gilas’ first practice at the Moro Lorenzo Sports Center inside the Ateneo campus.
“It’s tough to play without your big men. But obviously, we’ll be a team that will be identified by energy because of the youth there and speed, but we better learn and learn how to play together. And that’s the coach’s task,” added Baldwin.
Fifteen players on the pool took part in the first session under the watchful eyes of Dickel, with Baldwin also putting in his inputs. Also in attendance Sandy Arespacochaga, Alex Compton and Topex Robinson who were named as assistant coaches for the first window.
Players who took part are PBA cagers Kiefer Ravena, RR Pogoy, Troy Rosario and CJ Perez and amateurs Isaac Go, Matt and Mike Nieto, Rey Suerte, Allyn Bulanadi, Jaydee Tungcab, Thirdy Ravena, Juan and Javi Gomez de Liano, Dave Ildefonso and Dwight Ramos.
Marc Pingris, who will serve as elder’s statesman of the pool, Poy Erram and Kobe Paras also attended practice, albeit from the sidelines observing the proceedings.
Matthew Wright had a scheduling conflict while Ray Parks Jr’s status remains in limbo due to his ongoing contract negotiations with TNT KaTropa.
Gilas opens its bid to secure one of the two Asia Cup slots in Group A against Thailand on Feb. 20 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum before heading to Jakarta to take on Indonesia three days later.
Also part of the group is South Korea, which Gilas won’t face until the second window in November.
“They gonna be difficult games for us,” said Dickel. “We gonna have to approach it like we’re playing teams that are capable of beating us because if we don’t come in ready, we can be in trouble.”
Gilas will hold daily practices in order to speed up its preparation for the competition.