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    Chot explains decision to leave out Gab Banal, Lebron Lopez

    Feb 28, 2022
    LeBron Lopez failed to play for Gilas in the February window.
    PHOTO: fiba.basketball

    GAB Banal and Lebron Lopez proved to be the biggest casualties for Gilas Pilipinas in the aftermath of the Korea pullout in the 2023 Fiba World Cup Asian qualifiers.

    The two were the only ones in the 15-man pool which did not see action in the Philippines' two games at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, but coach Chot Reyes said that the two understood the rationale for their late cuts.

    "When Gab was chosen, he knew he was a backup to Roger [Pogoy]," the outspoken mentor said.


      Reyes was closely monitoring the situation of Pogoy, who was included in the pool despite his calf injury, and Banal was inserted as an insurance for the wing position.

      "In case Roger couldn't go, Gab was a backup. And that was made very clear to him when we included him in the 15-man lineup," he stated.

      Pogoy showed he was ready to play and averaged 8.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 1.5 steals in Gilas' games against India and New Zealand.


      As for Lopez, the 18-year-old high-flyer only joined the Gilas practices on Feb. 14, a little over a week before the competitions began, that Reyes felt that the Ateneo Blue Eaglet guard still hasn't adapted to the new system.

      "For Lebron, he was the last person to join. He was very far from the scheme of things yet," he said. "He is still very far from understanding our offense, our defense, and that’s the reason for those decisions."

      Reyes has previously cited that the sudden Korea pullout threw a monkey wrench on the coaches' plans of fielding everyone in the 15-man pool in all four games.


      "With four games, I was very confident and had a pretty good idea on how to play all 15 in the roster. Now with two games, admittedly that's going to be a problem," he said before the games started.


        Despite sticking with the same core, Reyes did make some minimal changes in his lineup, fielding Tzaddy Rangel in the India game before replacing him with Jaydee Tungcab for the New Zealand match.

        Banal and Lopez turned out to be the odd men out.

        It was the first national team callup for Banal, who last played for the Philippines in the youth level.

        Lopez, meanwhile, was a part of the young Gilas team which competed last year in the 2021 Fiba Asia Cup qualifiers and was the last cut in the squad that competed in the Fiba Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade.

        Nonetheless, Reyes assured Lopez that he's still very much a part of the Gilas future, potentially in the upcoming tournaments and most importantly, in the 2023 Fiba World Cup.

        "In the future, like I told Lebron, he’s going to get more chances with this team," he assured albeit with a caveat. "But he has to be more present. He has to be in the training camps, the practices, like all these other guys. And that’s the reason why."

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        LeBron Lopez failed to play for Gilas in the February window.
        PHOTO: fiba.basketball
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