It’s honestly a very welcome development that the Philippine men’s national basketball team has months and not weeks to prepare for a major international tournament.

Gilas Pilipinas recently resumed its buildup for the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup following its 2023 SEA Games gold medal conquest and also released its FIBA World Cup pool where the final roster will be based on.

In a nutshell, it’s a bunch of holdovers with some additions from Japan’s B.League and the Korean Basketball League (KBL). One can’t blame the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) and Gilas head coach Chot Reyes for picking retreads given their familiarity with Reyes’ system and the need to have the team ready ASAP. It also would have been great to see collegiate players in the pool (given Reyes’ new rhetoric of looking towards the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris), but we might as well trust the wisdom behind the selections.

Clarity with regard to the personnel is a good thing, though, with the FIBA World Cup just a few months away. The drama with regard to player commitments can take a toll on the players themselves, the organization, and even the fanbase, but now the focus and the storylines will largely focus on Gilas Pilipinas and hopefully, their progress.

It would also be interesting to see how some of the other pool members would fare this time around. Everyone knows what Justin Brownlee, Dwight Ramos, and Scottie Thompson bring to the table, but AJ Edu’s return to national team duties is intriguing. He last played for the Philippine U19 team, but that stint was unfortunately cut short by a torn right ACL, torn right meniscus, and a hairline fracture to his right femur bone. While he did play for the Toledo Rockets in the US NCAA for four seasons, Edu’s on-court exploits left a lot to be desired, but there is hope that he will provide as much (not necessarily stats-wise) as his U18 stint with Gilas.

Rhenz Abando is another name that comes to mind. Abando’s previous Gilas Pilipinas stints were short and not so sweet. Unlike some of his peers, the former Letran Knight was not frequently called up for the Philippine national team, but that allowed him to focus on his KBL stint, where he and Anyang KGC emerged as champions. 

Gilas would definitely benefit from whatever Abando brings to the table, as he contributed to Anyang KGC’s title run in various ways. He had at times looked out of sorts in previous Gilas Pilipinas stints, but the confidence from a KBL season (and a successful one at that) could help him find his role and perhaps carve out a more permanent place with the Philippine team moving forward.

Of course, it’d be remiss not to mention Kai Sotto in this case. Sotto’s status with Gilas will definitely be contingent on how his NBA journey fares, but he will always have a place in Gilas Pilipinas, regardless of what Reyes will say about no one having a sure spot on the team.

Sotto has made strides after stints with the National Basketball League’s (NBL) Adelaide 36ers and the B.League’s Hiroshima Dragonflies, showing more poise, power, and production with a year under his belt. Of course, this doesn’t mean he’s a finished product, but his combination of skill and size will make him a tough cover, more so when he is deployed the right way.

Our expectations on the players and the team as a whole will have to be managed and set once the Philippines gets to have some tuneup games and pocket tournaments under their belt. Practices can only do so much as the game reps will give Gilas a true taste of how all their tactics and training will blend.

Everyone has their opinion with regard to Gilas Pilipinas’ pool for the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup, but rather than judge at this moment, it may be better to wait and see what comes out of their preparations and the development with some of their players. So far, time and talent are working in their favor, so we can only hope that it all works out for the best.