THE Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) is exploring all options available to ensure a competitive Gilas Pilipinas team vying for a berth in the 2019 FIBA World Cup, including the possibility of forming a mix of PBA and cadet players to make up the national squad.
Executive director Sonny Barrios said the SBP is not totally closing the door on pro players suiting up for the national team again despite baring plans to form a cadets pool to compete in a series of qualifiers leading up to the world championships set in China two years from now.
The PBA has not yet made any commitment on the participation of its players beyond the last Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Manila, although there are doubts on the pros' availability under the new home-and-away format to be implemented by Fiba starting next week.
“Hopefully we can have some sort of a hybrid so to speak, if we can do that for some of the tournament windows. In other words puwedeng mag-mix,” said Barrios.
The SBP official, however, stressed the situation is a lot more complex than it looks.
Six qualifiers will be held starting in November of 2017 until February of 2019 to determine the 32 teams from four continents which will make up the Fiba World Cup cast in China.
“Sa totoo lang, si Butch (Antonio) has his work cut out for him. Hindi ganun kadali e, although nothing is cast in stone here,” added Barrios.
Antonio, who was a special guest along with Barrios in the weekly Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum on Tuesday at Shakey’s Malate, agreed but was quick to add that the smooth relationship between the SBP and the PBA makes anything possible.
“The partnership with the PBA has been very good. It’s something that we’d like to keep and foster for the World Cup,” he said.
Talks between the two bodies, represented by commissioner Chito Narvasa on the PBA side and vice president Al Panlilio for the SBP, had already been underway and is expected to resume once Panlilio and other SBP officials return from a business trip abroad.
“The talks have been positive naman. Once they got back from their business trips, hopefully in the next few days, mapag-usapan na yan,” said Antonio, also the deputy executive director for international affairs of the SBP.
Barrios admitted PBA players making up Gilas Pilipinas remains the perfect formula for the national team.
“That’s the ideal situation, and I know nag-uusap ngayon on how we can achieve the ideal,” he said.
Again, it’s not that easy, added Barrios, who knows exactly the sacrifice the PBA and its ballcubs will have to make, having previously worked with the league for more than two decades
“Hindi ganun kadali 'yun under the home and away format. There will be four windows of competition every year, and the reality is the PBA can’t stop its tournament four times a year,” said the SBP executive director.
The SBP first adopted the cadets program in 2008 when it pooled together some of the best amateur and collegiate players in the country to form the original Smart Gilas team under coach Rajko Toroman.
But when it finally saw action in the 2011 Fiba Asia Men's Championship which served as qualifier for the 2012 London Olympics, the team still tapped the services of PBA players led by Asi Taulava and Jimmy Alapag.
That team made the semifinals.