NOT a few fans expected a new-look Gilas Pilipinas pool at the turn of the year as the national team begins preparations for the second window of qualifying for the 2019 Fiba World Cup in China.
So it was quite a surprise that national coach Chot Reyes stuck with old, familiar faces when he named 16 players to his pool ahead of the second window of the qualifiers, which will see Gilas facing Australia on Feb. 22 in Melbourne and Japan at home three days later.
Late last year, reports quoting former PBA commissioner Chito Narvasa had raised optimism that the pro league was ready to do away with the one-cadet, one-veteran per team limitation in as far as the selection of the players in the Gilas pool is concerned.
Under the existing agreement between the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) and the PBA, Gilas is only allowed to call up one cadet and one veteran player from each ballclub, provided the team agrees to release more players to Reyes' pool.
Among the teams which contributed more to Gilas that what the memorandum of agreement (MOA) required were Rain or Shine (Raymond Almazan, Gabe Norwood) and TNT (Jayson Castro, Troy Rosario).
However, this report filed in late October by veteran columnist Quinito Henson in the Philippine Star quoted Narvasa as saying that since the cadets are now sophomores, the door is now open for Gilas to tap a maximum of two players per team, without cadet or veteran delineations.
Such a no-distinction policy would've given Reyes the opportunity to tap, say, Japeth Aguilar and Slaughter from Ginebra, June Mar Fajardo and Lassiter from San Miguel, and Paul Lee and Aldrech Ramos from Magnolia, if he so desires.
Reyes, we're sure, would've welcomed the opportunity.
However, when Reyes was asked about the no-distinction policy shortly after he named his new Gilas pool on Thursday, the multi-titled coach said no such rule is in place - or even discussed for that matter.
"No discussions along those lines," Reyes told SPIN.ph.
PBA officer-in-charge Willie Marcial later confirmed Reyes' statements, saying the old rules on the Gilas selection process still stand as far as he knows.
If that's the case, our feeling is such an initiative by Narvasa to put in place a no-distinction policy in the Gilas selection process either never took off or was simply overtaken by the events that led to his resignation at the end of the year.
That was just too bad.
Narvasa has come under fire for a number of decisions, but he should be praised for his full support to Gilas during his time in charge.