GILAS Pilipinas won’t be having special draftee Matt Nieto in the coming FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers and the Olympic Qualifying Tournament due to a hand injury.
Nieto, picked third overall by NLEX in the 2019 special draft for the national team, injured his hand in a freak accident in practice at the Inspire Sports Academy after it got caught in a teammate’s jersey.
The guard out of Ateneo initially thought the injury would heal through rest, but it became apparent it was a serious one.
“We lost Matt Nieto to a broken hand and he’ll be out for most of June and probably July, but we hope to have him back by the FIBA Asia Cup,” said Gilas Pilipinas men’s program director Tab Baldwin.
The former Gilas Pilipinas mentor said Nieto's leadership will be badly missed by the national team.
"It's going to be a leadership by committee. I don't think there's anyone who could really step into that role in the same way that Matt di," Baldwin added. "Certainly we still have his brother Mike here, who's a vocal leader and who creates a lot of positive culture for us, but on the court it's not the same when Matt is there with the ball on his hand."
Nieto has played in all three games for Gilas in the FIBA qualifiers. He scored two points and dished out assists off the bench in their 100-70 win against Indonesia during the first window.
He joins Dave Ildefonso on the sidelines as the son of PBA great Danny Ildefonso is also out with a suspected stress fracture on his foot.
"We miss both of them. We miss their talent and experience. We miss the fact that they give us chemistry with all the other players," said Baldwin.