After today, Gilas Pilipinas must be excited. Perhaps relieved or even exasperated.
Window 6 of the 2023 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers is upon us and Gilas has their pool of players for this window all to themselves.
Teams like the TNT Tropang Giga, Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings, and the San Miguel Beermen are off until March after lending out their eligible core players to the Philippine Men’s National Basketball Team for their games against Lebanon (February 24) and Jordan (February 27).
The players, though, did not come out unscathed as the likes of Japeth Aguilar (MCL sprain) and RR Pogoy (left ankle bone bruise) will not see action in the sixth window due to injuries. This is on top of the absences of Kai Sotto and Carl Tamayo, who both needed to attend to commitments with their respective Japan B.League teams.
There was a lot of fuss with regard to what should be done with the pool, whether it be bolstering the roster or, fairly or unfairly, questioning the commitment of certain players on the list.
Gilas Pilipinas has since adjusted so the work now goes into overdrive.
The Monday Gilas practices have been going on for quite some time, but now that the Tropang Giga, Gin Kings, and the Beermen are on break, players won’t have to sit out due to that week’s PBA games. Obviously, Chot Reyes and the rest of the Gilas Pilipinas coaching staff will be able to conduct more practices (reportedly twice a day) and the preparations are much better now that most can now be full participants.
Even if Gilas has nothing to play for during this final window, Filipinos remain eager to see how their national team will fare. Regardless of the ramifications, each game lights up social media and that’s expected when basketball is the unofficial national sport of the Philippines. The players themselves know firsthand how much this means for the country, especially since Gilas Pilipinas will close out the qualifiers on home soil.
After this weekend, it’d be best if everyone moved on from who won’t be there and instead focus on those who will be in the practices and eventually the final pool. Having the B.League players back is arguably one of the best developments for this cycle, with Dwight Ramos looking to have the distinction of playing in all qualifying windows.
The numbers may not always reveal it, but Ramos has been a beacon of consistency for Gilas. Whether it be a much-needed shot or providing stability to the team, the 24-year old has been counted on by both Tab Baldwin and Chot Reyes, something that should guarantee his spot on the Philippines’ 2023 FIBA World Cup roster (barring any injury).
Apart from Ramos, the sixth window of the Asian Qualifiers will mark the debut of naturalized big man Justin Brownlee. Brownlee needs no introduction, as he has won a handful of titles with Barangay Ginebra. Like Ramos, he too can be a stabilizer with the ability to score for his team when needed.
While his status for the 2023 FIBA World Cup largely depends on the availability of Jordan Clarkson, who has provided indications that he will suit up for the Philippines. Nevertheless, Brownlee will join Gilas Pilipinas for its stints in this year’s Asian Games and SEA Games, where the Philippines is more than eager to get that gold medal back after a disappointing finish back in 2021. In the meantime, this week will provide a glimpse of what Brownlee could do for Gilas and while it may be wise to manage expectations, Brownlee’s familiarity with the Philippines should be a boon.
Gilas Pilipinas should have no distractions and no excuses now that the sixth window of the 2023 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers is upon us. A sweep of this weekend’s games would obviously be the best result possible, but everyone, from those involved with the team to the fans, is hoping that the gains of this window (whatever they may be) may lead to good fortune come August and September.