NATIONAL coach Chot Reyes is standing by the composition of the Smart Gilas-Pilipinas 2.0 roster for the 24th Dubai International basketball tournament that tips off next week, slamming criticism that some of his players are not deserving to be part of the squad.
“Like I say, it’s easy to criticize. But let me ask them (critics), what have they done for the program or for the national team? So that’s my number one point. And my second point is: tell that to those who were invited but didn’t come here,” he said after the team’s first practice for the new year on Thursday at the Meralco gym in Pasig.
“I don’t understand what 'not deserving' means. That criticism is a load of crap for me,” an obviously irked Reyes added.
With the lineup led by three PBA players and mostly made up of players from the cadet national pool, Reyes conceded it’s going to be an uphill climb for the team in the eight-team tournament in the Gulf region starting on January 10.
Still, Reyes intends to use the meet as part of the cadet team’s buildup for the 27th Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar this December.
“We have no expectations. I think we’re going to get beat up. We’re playing very, very tough, quality competition,” admitted the five-time PBA Coach of the Year awardee, whose team will be up against squads from Jordan, Kazakhstan, three entries from Lebanon, Al Ahli Dubai, and the United Arab Emirates.
Smart Gilas, then handled by Serbian coach Rajko Toroman, finished third during the 2010 edition of the event.
“But again, the objective is not to win. The objective is to learn and train the cadet players for future and bigger tournaments," Reyes added.
With Gary David, LA Tenorio, and Sol Mercado unable to play owing to various reasons, only naturalized player Marcus Douthit, Filipino-American Matt Ganuelas, and former San Beda Lion Garvo Lanete are back from the Smart Gilas 2.0 roster that won the Jones Cup last August.
Joining them in the team this time are collegiate and amateur standouts Kevin Alas, Jake Pascual, RR Garcia, Ronald Pascual, and Greg Slaughter and PBA players Jay-R Reyes, KG Canaleta, and Ronjay Buenafe, along with new Fil-Am recruit Justin Melton.
“This team for Dubai was really not meant for the main Gilas team. It’s really for the cadets to prepare them for the SEA Games towards the end of the year.
“The only reason why we decided to put some PBA players is because we wanted to use it as a tryout for the players who were not included in the Jones Cup. That’s why we wanted Arwind (Santos) and June Mar (Fajardo) to be there, but since they’re not here, this is the team that we have, this is the kind of lineup we put together.”