MORE than warm bodies, the presence of cadet players during Tuesday night’s practice of Gilas Pilipinas also meant one thing – the national team is ready to go to war in the Southeast Asian Basketball Association (Seaba) Championship without the benefit of a naturalized player.
Coach Chot Reyes bared that in case Andray Blatche failed to fulfill his commitment to suit up in the qualifier for the FIBA Asia Cup this August, he won’t hesitate to replace him with any of the Gilas cadets he has in his disposal.
A slew of rookie players showed up at the Meralco gym in what was supposed to be an exclusive practice for the final roster of the national team to the May 12-18 tournament at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Reyes said he invited all the healthy cadets in the national pool to serve as practice players to his 11-man team, and at the same time, get any of them to be ready should the 30-year-old Blatche again delay his arrival coming over here.
“There are cadets here, No .1 to help us as practice players. And no.2, so that they’ll be ready in case we make a replacement.”
Blatche was supposed to be in his first Gilas practice on Tuesday, but called up the team on Monday and asked for a delay of his arrival since he’ll be attending the christening of his first born baby.
The 6-foot-11 naturalized player will instead arrive here on Friday.
Among the cadets who practiced with the team include Kevin Ferrer, Carl Bryan Cruz, Alfonso Gotladera, Mike Tolomia, Almond Vosotros, and Von Pessumal.
Reyes said he’s willing to go to any of these players if ever Blatche won’t be available.
“That’s a possibility for now,” said the national coach. “But that would be our last option.”
“There’s a replacement fee, and we’ll pay that replacement fee,” said Reyes. “But I don’t want to jeopardize the team just because of one person.”
Reyes also made it clear he talked to league commissioner Chito Narvasa and asked clearance from the mother ballclubs of the cadet players to allow them in attending the Gilas practices.