Wider pool to boost Gilas World Cup quest
Andray Blatche in file photo.
MANILA, Philippines — National coach Yeng Guiao is looking at a wider, deeper pool of 18 to 20 players for the next window of the FIBA World Cup qualifiers where Gilas Pilipinas plays Kazakhstan and Iran at home at the MOA Arena in Pasay City.
The country’s previous pool utilized against Iran and Qatar will be boosted by the return of Andray Blatche, Jayson Castro, Terrence Romeo, Troy Rosario plus 16-year-old 7-1 Kai Sotto as a developmental player.
“We’ll have a bigger pool, and we start our practices by the first week of November,” Guiao told The STAR.
Third behind Australia (7-1) and Iran (6-2) in Pool F, the Philippines (5-3) resumes its quest for a spot in the World Cup in China in 2019 in playing back-to-back home games against Kazakhstan on Nov. 30 then opposite Iran on Dec. 3.
Guiao said he’s considering Blatche, Castro, Romeo and Rosario for the game against Iran since the four players have served their three-game suspension by then. The four were among 10 Gilas players meted sanctions by FIBA in the aftermath of the Gilas-Australia brawl.
“For Andray Blatche, we would also have to consider his availability and playing condition,” said Guiao.
“But even if he is not available, hindi tayo mabibitin because we have two other options in Christian Standhardinger and Stanley Pringle,” Guiao added.
Standhardinger served as the country’s naturalized player in a 73-81 loss to Iran in Tehran on Sept. 13 then Pringle took over in Team Phl’s 92-81 conquest of Qatar in a closed-door match at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Sept. 17.
Greg Slaughter could finally be back wearing the national tri-colors against Kazakhstan and Iran. The 7-1 behemoth was a member of the original Gilas team under coach Rajko Toroman.
Others likely to be called back are Paul Lee, Alex Cabagnot, Gabe Norwood, Scottie Thompson, Poy Erram, Ian Sangalang, Marcio Lassiter, Japeth Aguilar, Beau Belga, Matthew Wright, Raymond Almazan and Allein Malicsi.
The Nationals hope to sweep their next two games to stay inside the Top Three in their group. They need to finish in the Top Three to make the 2019 world joust.