WITH the uncertainty surrounding Gilas Pilipinas’ roster for the Fiba Asia Cup next month, coach Chot Reyes has decided to recall Gabe Norwood at least to the pool of players that are vying for spots in the squad for the continental showpiece in Lebanon.
The national coach explained the surprise addition of the national team veteran, citing that talks between the PBA and the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) regarding the release of Gilas veterans are still ongoing.
“There's no assurance he's part of the lineup, but at least he's part of the list as an insurance because as you know, we don't have yet the full agreement with the PBA on releasing all the players on the veteran list,” Reyes said after practice on Monday.
Norwood's mother club, Rain or Shine, is among the teams reported to have released their Gilas veterans for the Fiba Asia Cup.
Reyes insisted that Norwood has never been excluded from the pool, only excluding the ROS point forward specifically for the Southeast Asian Basketball Association (Seaba) Championship roster as Reyes began a youth movement with only Jayson Castro the only player in his 30s in the Seaba squad.
“Gabe has always been part of the pool, ‘di lang namin pina-publicize,” Reyes said. “He knows it, his team knows it, the coaches know it, so that's the first reason. He's always been part of the pool.”
“But we told him we will keep him off the Seaba lineup because we want to go younger,” he added. “We kept him off first. Now we decided to activate him to be part of the list.”
Reyes even went as far as saying that other former members of the pool, rattling off Ranidel de Ocampo, 44-year-old Asi Taulava, Marc Pingris, and Jeff Chan, won't hesitate to answer the call.
“The reality is, every other member of the Gilas pool is always on call,” Reyes said. “Yun yung maganda sa kanila eh. Even if I call on Ranidel or Asi or Ping – all those guys, I’m sure they’re going to have no problems answering the call.
“The question is, really, the other things – the PBA schedule, their mother teams, and everything else. Yun yung mga issue,” he added. “But alam naman ng lahat yan – Jeff Chan, maski sino naman ang tawagin dyan, hindi yan maga-atubili mag-serve.”
Reyes, however, is also eager to keep infusing young blood into the program that’s ultimately preparing for the 2019 World Cup and the 2020 Olympics, a reason why he’s less worried about fielding a veteran-less squad in the Fiba Asia Cup.
“We have to balance it with the fact that we’re also building for the future,” Reyes said. “Of course we want to be competitive in the Fiba Asia, but the reality is we have to manage our expectations for the Fiba Asia. It’s less than one month before the Fiba Asia starts and we don’t even have a team while the others are already practicing.”
“We just have to manage our expectations and train our sights on the future, which is really what we want to build with this program,” he added. “We want to be as competitive as we can, but we understand that it’s not always possible, but at least we can still build for the future.”