The Seaba tournament set this August could be won by the Gilas 5.0 cagers with their left hands tied at their backs, but the coaching staff said it will treat it with utmost care and attention by fielding the strongest team possible.
“We don’t want to overlook the Seaba. If we don’t win it, pass your paper na tayong lahat dito. Everything goes for naught,” National coach Chot Reyes told sportswriters during a briefing on Sunday night at Philsports arena where he announced the 12 pros included in the National team pool.
“That’s our entire focus first. Kailangan nating ipanalo ’yung Seaba to enable us to play in the FIBA Asia. So we fully intend to bring our strongest team sa Seaba dahil ’yun ang importante,” the comebacking national mentor added.
Last year, Gilas, backstopped by rookie professionals forward Mac Belo of Blackwater and point guard Jio Jalalon of Star, won this tournament serving as qualifier for the Fiba Asia Cup by destroying region’s archrival Thailand, 97-80, and clinching its second title unbeaten.
Giving premium on youth by the coaching staff, Reyes announced the additions of LA Revilla (Mahindra), Norbert Torres (Phoenix), June Mar Fajardo (San Miguel), Calvin Abueva (Alaska), Japeth Aguilar (Ginebra), Art dela Cruz (Blackwater), Terrence Romeo (Globalport), Jonathan Grey (Meralco), Bradwin Guinto (NLEX), Raymond Almazan (Rain or Shine), Paul Lee (Star) and Jayson Castro (TNT).
These 12 men will join the 12 Cadets now in the pool where members of two national squads for two international tournaments both scheduled in August will come from.
The two tournaments are the 29th Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and the Fiba Asia in Beirut, Lebanon where 16 teams including Australia and New Zealand will play in the regional meet for the first time.
The addition of the 12 pros to the pool is the second step in an expensive, ambitious, long program aimed at qualifying for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan in 2020.
In selecting the 12, youth with veteran smarts was foremost in the mind of Reyes, who said no one among the new additions is above 30 years old with Castro, Aguilar and Fajardo still “below 30”.
“We like the combination of youth with veteran smarts kasi if you take a look at Jayson, Japeth, and June Mar, they are all 30-yrs-old-and-under but they have a lot of experience already. So magandang halo ’yun,” said Reyes.
And it’s also the tallest.
“I think it’s the tallest group of players that we could assemble in the country today, so I really like its composition,”he added.
Three players who were part of the team from 2013 Fiba Asia championship to last year’s Fiba Olympic qualifiers—Gabe Norwood of Rain or Shine, Ranidel de Ocampo of TNT and Marc Pingris of Star—didn’t make it this time, something that surprised a lot of observers.
Giving youth a lot of importance in the selection made it harder for Norwood, De Ocampo and Pingris to make it.
The first tour of duty for Gilas will be on its home soil after Manila was awarded the right to host Seaba championship on April 23-30 with the winner getting outright berth to the Asia Cup.
Reyes confirmed the hosting matter on Monday by announcing it on his Twitter account@coachot.