Except for Utah Jazz star Jordan Clarkson and NBA prospect Kai Sotto, all the active players in the 21-member Gilas Pilipinas pool, are on call for a scheduled pre-World Cup pocket tournaments and tuneup matches for the nationals in Europe against the Estonian national team, Finland, Lithuania and Latvia.
Another mini-tourney in China is also being arranged for early August.
Clarkson, who is expected to join the team a few weeks before the Philippines hosts the FIBA World Cup starting on August 25, has one more year left in his contract with the Jazz and is reportedly looking to either negotiate a new deal or test the free market.
On the other hand, Sotto is eyeing a stint in the NBA Summer League in his continuing bid to make it to the league.
Meanwhile, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Al Panlilio on Thursday called on the Filipino people to rally behind the Gilas Pilipinas National Pool as preparation for the FIBA Basketball World goes into overdrive, with the series of pocket tournaments and friendlies in Europe scheduled.
“We humbly seek the full support of our countrymen for our National Pool. They are about to begin the critical part of their training for the World Cup and they need everybody to fall behind them,” said Panlilio, recently elected Second Vice President of the FIBA Asia Board.
“We’re praying for the good health and safety of all the players, coaches and everyone involved with Gilas Pilipinas,” he added. “This is our national team, and they are all committed to give their utmost best as they go up against the best players in the world.”
On the hosting side of the event, Panlilio assured that SBP and the FIBAWC Local Organizing Committee had left no stone unturned in making sure the country will be delivering the best World Cup ever, adding everything is right on schedule.
“With the help of the government and our friends in the public sector, SBP has put in place an elaborate network that works 24/7 to guarantee a World Cup built on organization, teamwork and our fellowmen’s innate hospitality and love for the game,” Panlilio said.
SBP, on Tuesday, announced the composition of the 21-man Gilas pool, which will reconvene this week to set into motion the final process leading up to the selection of the Final 12.
Clarkson and Southeast Asian Games sensation Justin Brownlee headline the Gilas pool made up of local and international pro league royalty, led by PBA MVPs June Mar Fajardo and Scottie Thompson and 7-foot-3 phenom Sotto.
From this list, national coach Chot Reyes and his staff will prune it down to 12, finalizing the roster shortly before Gilas debuts against fellow Group A entry and FIBA Americas qualifier Dominican Republic at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
The national team takes on FIBA Africa qualifier Angola next at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, Quezon City, then wraps up the first round of the Group Phase against world No. 10 and two-time FIBA EuroBasket champion Italy also at the Big Dome.
Two wins, at least, will send Gilas to the second round against top qualifiers from Group B, made up of South Sudan, world No. 6 Serbia, China and Puerto Rico. Designated as third venue in the FIBAWC is SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City, which will house the Final Phase of the tournament.
Comprising the bulk of the Gilas pool are Chris Newsome, Kiefer Ravena, CJ Perez, Rhenz Abando, Jordan Heading, Dwight Ramos, Jamie Malonzo, Thirdy Ravena, Japeth Aguilar, JP Erram, Carl Tamayo, AJ Edu and Anj Kouame.
Also included but recovering from recent injuries are Roger Pogoy (finger fracture), Ray Parks (muscle strain) and Calvin Oftana. A key player for the TNT Tropang Giga in the PBA, Oftana suffered a Grade Two calf muscle strain during the Philippines’ opening game against Malaysia in the recent Southeast Asian Games in Phnom Penh.
Recalling, behind Brownlee’s heroics in Cambodia, Gilas Pilipinas avenged its predecessors’ heartbreaking loss to Indonesia in the 2022 SEA Games men’s basketball final in Hanoi. Gilas also bounced back from a shocking preliminary round upset to the import-heavy host team on the way to redeeming the gold medal and regional cage supremacy.
The Philippines is lead co-hosting FIBA World Cup 2023 with Japan and Indonesia.