By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
Now that the 2023 FIBA World Cup is over, the Gilas Pilipinas men’s national basketball team will shift its entire focus to the upcoming Asian Games in China.
Despite losing its first four games in front of an energized Filipino crowd, the national squad made it up by crushing China in their last game, 96-75, bolstered by a fiery Jordan Clarkson performance who erupted during the third quarter to give Gilas the much-needed lead entering the fourth frame.
Following the departure of head coach Chot Reyes who recently announced he will be stepping down as the squad’s chief tactician due to multiple reasons including health and a much-needed break, the Gilas committee together with the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) are currently in a difficult position of forming a formidable team that can clinch the gold medal in Guangzhou.
Several key players will most likely be absent in the Asian Games, one of them is Dwight Ramos, Gilas’ vital piece in all of their international basketball stints.
Ramos already confirmed that he will not be with the team in the Asian Games and will fly to Japan to prepare for the upcoming Japan B. League.
The young two-way star just signed a contract with the Levanga Hokkaido this season and is looking forward to their training camp set to start in the coming weeks.
Aside from Ramos, Gilas commits who are also playing as Asian imports in Japan are AJ Edu, Kai Sotto, Ray Parks Jr., and Thirdy & Kiefer Ravena.
Meanwhile, Rhenz Abando, one of the Filipinos who earned a huge contract in the Korean Basketball League (KBL), is also uncertain.
Several weeks ago, Abando revealed that his team’s training camp already started and would catch up right after the FIBA World Cup.
Without the key cogs, Gilas will have to draw their players from the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).
Justin Brownlee, the country’s naturalized player who is playing for the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, already vowed to play for the national team in China.
The SBP and the Gilas committee are now in a race against time and will kick off the selection of players in the following weeks.