GILAS Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes reiterated there was no intention to leave out players from De La Salle, especially highly-touted Ricci Rivero, from the initial 23-man national team pool he formed Thursday night for the 2023 FIBA World Cup here.
Reyes said the non-inclusion of Rivero, Aljun Melecio, and Andrei Caracut was in respect of the request of the Taft-based school itself not to bring in any of their players at the moment as part of the pool.
"The school, La Salle, has actually asked us not to include any of their players first, because they are now in the process of transition and re-formation of their program," said Reyes in an interview aired Friday night over ESPN 5.
Basketball fans were left surprised when the names of Rivero, Melecio, and Caracut were nowhere to be found in the list of 23 players Reyes listed down and released in public on Friday who will comprise the national pool from which the Gilas Pilipinas team will be formed for the World Cup the country is hosting six years from now.
The absence of Rivero was actually the one which caught the most attention since no less than long-time basketball patron and Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) chairman emeritus Manny V. Pangilinan personally endorsed him as among those likely to make the Gilas team by 2023.
But La Salle's request is understandable.
The Green Archers, fresh from a runner-up finish behind rival Ateneo in last year's UAAP men's basketball Season 80 finals, just named Louie Gonzalez as the new coach of their seniors cage team after parting ways with former mentor Aldin Ayo just before 2017 came to an end.
Reyes though, reiterated though, Rivero and Co. will still be considered for inclusion in the Gilas pool.
Among those who made the Gilas pool are rising stars Kobe Paras, Thirdy Ravena, Paul Desiderio, Kai Sotto, Matt Nieto, Robert Bolick, and Fil-Nigerian AJ Edu.
The list also included Fil-foreigners Remy Martin, Dwight Ramos, and Troy Rike, who have yet to play on local soil but have become popular among Filipino fans who have seen their videos online.
Completing Reyes' choices are CJ Perez, Juan Gomez de Liano, James Tuffin, Jeo Ambohot, JJ Alejandro, Joshua Sinclair, Arvin Tolentino, Javee Mocon, Isaac Go, Abu Tratter, Kenmark Carino, Will Gozum, and Karl Vincent Tamayo.