Jeron Teng, Jett Manuel, Andre Paras move a step closer to officially becoming part of Gilas pool
Jeron Teng and Andre Paras were present in Gilas first gathering for the Fiba Asia Champions Cup. Jerome Ascano

JERON Teng, Jett Manuel, and Andre Paras took a step closer to becoming officially part of the Gilas Pilipinas pool as they were among the new faces who joined Gilas Pilipinas’ unofficial first practice on Monday night for the Fiba Asia Champions Cup.

National coach Chot Reyes said they decided to field a team in the club tournament not only to accept the invitation of the organizers from Fiba, but also to use it as venue for tryouts for national team hopefuls.

“I wanted to see who the other players we could add into the pool are, and the guys we’re looking at are Jeron, Jett Manuel, and Andre,” Reyes said.

Teng tried out the last minute to be part of the either the Jones Cup or Southeast Asian Games team, but wound up late, while Paras has also attended previous training sessions as a practice player. Manuel also volunteered to be a practice player in the past.

Reyes has called up the amateur standouts considering some Gilas mainstays are unavailable due to injuries, PBA, or family commitments. Christian Standhardinger (knee) and Ray Parks (ankle) have begged off to recuperate from aches and pains, while Matthew Wright is immediately leaving after Phoenix’s PBA Governors’ Cup campaign to visit his son who he hasn’t seen in more than a year.

Reyes is hoping Kobe Paras can still make the roster after the teen star went back to the US to rejoin his new college team, Cal State Northridge.

“The rest are still in the PBA,” Reyes said as Calvin Abueva and Terrence Romeo showed up in practice in street clothes. “While their teams are in contention, we can’t expect them to have any confirmation.”

With winless Kia already eliminated, Reyes said he’s recalling LA Revilla, while the national coach would’ve also wanted to take a look at Glenn Khobuntin.

“We really wanted Glenn Khobuntin, but I think he suffered an injury,” Reyes said. “We’ve been wanting to invite him to the pool for a quite a while now.”

Nigerian Bright Akhuetie and naturalized player prospect Isaiah Austin are set to bolster the undermanned squad.

“Other than that, the entire roster, there are still a lot of holes, a lot of spots in the roster,” Reyes said. “It’s going to depend really on how the PBA goes. If there are teams that are already eliminated, then we can invite. But other than that, everything’s still up in the air.”

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Reyes has also left the door open for practice players like Achie Iñigo, Mikee Reyes, and Joseph Gabayni as far as making the squad is concerned.

“We looked around for practice players. We wanted to have at least ten guys,” Reyes said. “We knew only five or six from the regular pool are going to make it.”

“For now, they are practice players,” he added. “We want to see if they can make the pool. But that’s the path that Kiefer, Ray-Ray, Toto Jose took, Kobe Paras took. We took a look at them in practice, and then we tested them in a tournament in the Jones Cup, and now they’re regular fixtures in the Gilas pool.

“Now, we’re going up to the next step: we want to make sure that we always have a pool of players to choose from,” he continued.

Reyes said the deadline for submitting the roster is on Friday, but they are seeking a leeway from the organizers.

“I think this Friday eh, so I don’t know how we can beat it or what’s going to happen,” Reyes said. “As it is now, we’re asking for maximum concession and accommodation from the organizers. Anyway, late naman kami na-invite at late na rin kami nag-confirm.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos