By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
NCAA’s reigning Most Valuable Player (MVP) Rhenz Abando of the newly crowned Letran Knights is finally a step away from a Gilas Pilipinas national team debut.
Already drawing tons of praises since his University of Santo Tomas (UST) Growling Tigers days as an elite small forward, even former head coach Tab Baldwin expressed his intent to recruit the high-flying swingman to the national team.
Basketball sources confirmed that Abando already received a call-up to play for Gilas for the upcoming 2023 FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers and the 2022 FIBA Asia Cup.
Fresh off a heartbreaking loss during the 2022 Southeast Asian Games that ended their 13-year gold medal streak in the men’s basketball, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas is already kicking off their preparations and is planning to have an early training camp.
Abando’s addition will be a huge boost to the national team as his athleticism, hustle, and ability to score will be a great fit in the international game.
The young and talented forward turned heads during his NCAA debut and averaged an impressive 15.73 points, 6.36 rebounds, 1.73 assists, and 1.27 blocks as a rookie.
Before the development of Abando’s recruitment, Gilas’ head coach already said that he is planning to field NCAA and UAAP players for the two upcoming international competitions.
“In our plans, it’s going to be composed mostly of UAAP and NCAA players because the PBA is going to be ongoing at that time,” Reyes said in reply to PlayitRight TV.
Aside from Abando, Gilas teen wonders LeBron Lopez, Ateneo’s Dave Ildefonso and SJ Belangel, UP’s Carl Tamayo and James Spencer, and incoming DLSU center Kevin Quiambao are also a part of their initial list.
“We really want to be able to expose them to higher level Asian competition to prepare them for the World Cup in 2023,” added Reyes.