AMATEURS may have been left out of the Gilas Pilipinas roster in the 30th Southeast Asian Games, but they sure earned their spots in the pool for the first window of the 2021 Fiba Asia Cup qualifiers.
Ateneo star Thirdy Ravena and University of the Philippines forward Kobe Paras spearheaded the strong youth contingent in the national team pool.
Part of the list bared by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) and the PBA on Friday include brothers Juan and Javi Gomez de Liano of UP, Justine Baltazar of La Salle, Dave Ildefonso of NU, and Dwight Ramos of Ateneo.
Also announced earlier were the inclusions of Isaac Go, Rey Suerte, Allyn Bulanadi, and twins Matt and Mike Nieto, who were all taken in the special Gilas round of the 2019 PBA Rookie Draft, as well as the late addition of Jaydee Tungcab of UP in the pool.
All in all, a total of 13 out of the 24 names listed are still not playing in the PBA, a strong statement coming from the SBP that it has its eyes set on the future.
They, however, will have to fight for their spots to be included in the rosters which will see action come February for the first series of games.
The Philippines opens its campaign on the road against Thailand on February 20, before going home and hosting Indonesia on February 23.
"We are looking to expose our younger players and work to build an up-tempo team," said SBP president Al Panlilio. "As we said in the recent past, this is a development plan for the national team in preparation for the 2023 FIBA World Cup."
It's a big step to the right direction after the federation earlier reneged its plans of including amateurs to the pool -- specifically for the SEA Games -- in favor of trotting an all-professional side for the regional conclave.
Back in September, Spin.ph reported SBP's plans to infuse eight amateurs to the SEA Games pool before changing gears and deciding to field the all-PBA squad under coach Tim Cone.
Of that eight, six made it to the list for this first window, with the only two missing the cut being 17-year-old prodigy Kai Sotto and flashy guard Ricci Rivero.
But don't rule out the possibility of those two being soon called up, at least for the next window of qualifiers, as the country builds its team up for the 2023 Fiba World Cup.