GIVEN the short preparation time, Gilas 5.0 coach Josh Reyes faced a tall order in forming a competitive team for the Fiba Asia Challenge Cup next month, choosing from a limited pool of players.
But despite lacking in height, the 14-man pool was still stacked in talent, which made the last cut a tough decision for the young coach.
"All of them are deserving to be in the lineup and it's a shame we can only pick 12," said Reyes after the final lineup's first practice on Friday night at the Meralco Gym.
"Because of the limitations in preparation time, I picked the players who are comfortable with the system already. I'd like to limit the guys that we have to teach the system to," he added.
Gilas cadets mainstays Mac Belo, Kevin Ferrer, Mike Tolomia, Russel Escoto, and Roger Pogoy were shoo-ins. Chris Javier, Carl Bryan Cruz, Arnold Van Opstal, and Ponso Gotladera were included to add some badly needed size to the squad. The last pick came down to two first-timers in CJ Perez and Jonathan Grey.
Needing height at every position, Reyes went with Perez, a 6-foot-1 high-flying guard, who was more comfortable playing point guard. Racal gunner Grey, meanwhile, and Almond Vosotros were listed as reserves, but both will still join the contingent in the September 9-18 tournament.
"I felt that CJ was more comfortable running the point. Eventually Jonathan will be up to speed na rin with more training with us. It's just unfortunate that we didn’t have much practice," said Reyes.
Perez will help form a bigger backcourt with Tolomia and Ed Daquioag, something Reyes hopes will make up for the team's lack of ceiling. And the Lyceum guard has already expressed confidence in his new role, while Daquioag is already armed with a plan on how to attack taller opponents.
The Gilas coach is pleased that even if his lineup lacks height and star power, they won’t be found wanting when it comes to their competitive fire.
"We don't want to send a team there that will just accept na mas malalakas ang kalaban. We want to be able to show that within this system, the Filipino style of play can play good basketball at this level.” Reyes said.
“Regardless of the end result, we want to show that we are trying our best in every possession," he added.