Much of Philippine basketball will be on break for the next week and a half for… Philippine basketball.
The Philippine Men’s National Basketball Team will go on the road for the fifth window of the 2023 FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers, taking on Jordan on November 10 and Saudi Arabia a few days later on November 13. The Gilas Pilipinas pool for the fifth window of the FIBA World Cup qualifiers is a mix of PBA veterans, college stars, and Filipinos trying their trade in Japan’s B.League and Australia and New Zealand’s National Basketball League (NBL). Even if this pool looks good on paper, there will be some key omissions.
June Mar Fajardo remains out as he continues to recover from surgery to repair a laryngeal fracture, while Chris Newsome suffered a left calf strain during Gilas practice after having just gotten back from a right calf strain that forced him to miss two weeks of PBA action. Meanwhile, Carl Tamayo recently begged off from participating in the fifth window as he continues to recover from a nagging right ankle injury he has been playing through in UAAP Season 85.
Another wrinkle is that naturalized big man Ange Kouame continues to play through a meniscal sprain and a partial tear to his ACL he may not yet be fully recovered from. While Kouame still has a chance of making the final roster, he won’t be able to completely mask the lack of lift, among other things, against more athletic, physical, and systematically sophisticated teams compared to what he has faced so far in the UAAP.
Of course, there will be quarters that will say that the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) and Gilas Pilipinas are only playing with the cards they’re being dealt with. However, this applies more to the injuries Fajardo, Newsome, Tamayo, and Kouame have been dealing with. But then again, having a pool usually helps a team avert disaster when players start dropping like flies.
Younger players such as Jaime Malonzo, Arvin Tolentino, and Kevin Quiambao will get some much needed run with the national team, while Dwight Ramos, Kiefer Ravena, and Japeth Aguilar will lead the team in their own way. However, the gains this upcoming week will be balanced with some losses that would usually usually come against the backdrop of “not enough time” that has been so commonplace that one would think it has become Gilas’ mantra. Moreover, Chot Reyes has been leading this Gilas program for so long (and for the nth time) that he already has a long list of highs and lows that have left Filipinos wanting for more (and that’s being nice).
If basketball means so much to the Philippines, shouldn’t it also reflect on the stakeholders involved with the national team? It’s high time that the perennial problems of the past remain… well, in the past.
Leagues such as the B. League, the NBL, and the UAAP have all given way to the FIBA World Cup qualifiers, while the PBA tweaked its schedule to accommodate the teams lending players out to Gilas Pilipinas for the fifth window.
The PBA’s initiative is a major step (relative to their past actions or lack thereof) in the right direction, and they can certainly do a lot more. Adjusting the schedule for the 2023 FIBA World Cup is one thing, but making permanent adjustments to succeeding international tournaments would go a long way to ensuring availability would be one of their players’ best traits.
Moreover, there’s been word that DLSU Green Archer and current UAAP MVP front-runner Schonny Winston has been given clearance by FIBA to represent the Philippines as a local and could have joined Gilas as early as the fifth window of the FIBA World Cup qualifiers. Winston has been dealing with a calf injury as of late that has forced him to miss La Salle’s last two games in Season 85, but Fajardo was nonetheless included in the pool despite being sidelined so what gives?
Perhaps the SBP should have an objective with each remaining window rather than stacking the deck with talent. With the 2023 FIBA World Cup now less than a year away, factoring health and who will be in the final roster should take precedence over putting players that may not even sniff the court for Gilas next year. Having a plan is one thing, but having one in place for the sake of having one in place is quite different from one that will make meaningful strides for a program.
Gilas Pilipinas will become the center of attention once again in the coming week or so with the fifth window of the 2023 FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers. The outcome from the games in this qualifying window could be a mix of both the good and the bad, but everyone involved should make every contest count.