Awaiting FIBA’s decision

FIBA is exercising due process in investigating the brawl that marred the recent Philippines-Australia game in the third window of the FIBA Asia/Pacific qualifiers for the 2019 World Cup and the relief is the SBP will get the chance to explain its side before sanctions are announced.

Nine Gilas players were ejected in the game and FIBA will focus its attention on those who were given the boot for their participation in the bench-clearing free-for-all. The only Gilas players who were spared from ejection were JuneMar Fajardo, Gabe Norwood and Baser Amer. Banished to the showers were Terrence Romeo, Carl Bryan Cruz, Jayson Castro, Calvin Abueva, Andray Blatche, R. R. Pogoy, Troy Rosario, Japeth Aguilar and Matthew Wright. Two other Gilas players Allein Maliksi and Jio Jalalon were shown on video joining the melee so even if they didn’t see action in the contest, they, too, may be censured.

From previous precedents, it appears FIBA will fine the Philippine and Australian federations for failing to rein in their players and providing proper decorum. Players may be meted out suspensions from one to three and maybe even more games and fined, depending on the severity of their involvement.

In case FIBA suspends all nine Gilas players, it’s not certain if the sit-out will start during the Asian Games on Aug. 14-Sept. 1. Blatche, Castro, Romeo, Pogoy and Rosario are in the 12-man lineup submitted by coach Chot Reyes for the Asian Games. The others are Jericho Cruz, Kelly Williams, Don Trollano, Anthony Semerad, Ricci Rivero, Kobe Paras and Abu Tratter. The scuttlebutt is Williams may not join the team in Jakarta because of travel document issues and Fajardo may be tapped as his replacement. If the five players are suspended and FIBA will rule that the sit-out will start at the Asian Games, Reyes will need to find replacements.

The Philippines is bracketed with Iran, Syria and the United Arab Emirates in the group stage of the Asian Games. Two teams will advance from each of the four groups in the 15-team competition to the knockout quarterfinal round of eight. Gilas’ games are scheduled on Aug 19, 20 and 21.

In the second round of the World Cup qualifiers, the Philippines will play Group D survivors Iran, Qatar and Kazakhstan over three windows. Gilas faces Iran on the road on Sept. 13 and Qatar at home on Sept. 17 in the fourth window. Then, it’s two back-to-back home games in the fifth window against Kazakhstan on Nov. 30 and Iran on Dec. 3. In the sixth window, the Philippines will battle Qatar on Feb. 21 and Kazakhstan on Feb. 24, both on the road.

If the nine players are suspended from playing in the fourth and fifth windows, Gilas will be challenged to suit up a competitive squad. Reyes can submit a brand new pool of up to 24 for each window and from that list will come the final 12 to play in every game.

For the third window, Reyes turned in a pool of 22 – Abueva, Aguilar, Raymond Almazan, Amer, Mac Belo, Blatche, Robert Bolick, Carl Bryan Cruz, Fajardo, Jalalon, Maliksi, Norwood, Paras, C. J. Perez, Pogoy, Prince Rivero, Ricci Rivero, Romeo, Rosario, Tratter, Castro and Wright. Assuming the nine players are suspended, Reyes may consider tapping Almazan to replace Aguilar, Christian Standhardinger to replace Blatche, L. A Tenorio to replace Castro, Paul Lee to replace Romeo, Vic Manuel to replace Abueva, Scottie Thompson to replace Pogoy, Arwind Santos to replace Rosario, Marcio Lassiter to replace Wright and Jared Dillinger to replace Cruz.

The fourth to sixth windows are critical in determining whether or not the Philippines will join seven Asia/Pacific qualifiers, excluding host China which has an automatic ticket, in the 2019 FIBA World Cup. PBA commissioner Willie Marcial said the pro league is open to whomever Reyes picks for the Gilas pool but players who are chosen must submit themselves unconditionally to the national squad. Meanwhile, the SBP awaits FIBA’s decision.