THREE men down but Gilas Pilipinas still has plenty of artillery left to stay competitive against the rest of the field in the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers.
After a third player in Rey Suerte suffered a sprained ankle, the national team is now looking at newbies Jordan Heading and Jaydee Tungcab to step in and take over the spot vacated by the 25-year-old former University of the Visayas top gun.
Gilas Pilipinas project director Tab Baldwin believes both Heading and Tungcab are capable of filling in for the injured Suerte, the third member of the Gilas pool to go down with injury after Matt Nieto and Dave Ildefonso.
“As a national team, you always believe that you have the talent to replace fallen players. We’re currently looking at Jordan Heading and Jaydee Tungcab,” said Baldwin.
Heading and Tungcab were part of the latest PBA special draftees taken in to become part of the Gilas Pilipinas pool.
Terrafirma picked Heading as the top pick in the special draft, while Tungcab went at No. 4 with TnT Tropang Giga, which acquired his rights following a three-team with NLEX and Blackwater, with rookie Mikey Williams as the centerpiece player.
Baldwin has enough confidence in what the two could bring to the table for the national squad.
“Jordan provides excellent shooting and some ball handling skills, while Jaydee is an outstanding open court player who is also a tenacious defender,” said the former Gilas Pilipinas mentor.
“We are hoping that the impact on the team’s leadership will be minimized by more players stepping up and becoming more vocal, on and off the court.”
But Baldwin admitted Suerte will definitely be missed by Gilas in its campaign in the final leg of the qualifier set June 16 to 20 at Clark in Pampanga.
“Rey has been our captain and eldest member of the team, so his maturity has been a stabilizing force in our group,” he said. “He’s also an excellent three-point shooter who has a scorer’s mentality, so he has become a reliable source of points.”