JUNE Mar Fajardo and Marcio Lassiter have confirmed their attendance in the first practice of the new Gilas Pilipinas pool on Monday night, guaranteeing national coach Tab Baldwin a full complement of players when the team begins preparation for the Olympic wildcard qualifiers.
Gilas team manager Butch Antonio told Spin.ph on Sunday he has gotten in touch with touch with the help of PBA president and CEO Chito Salud and SMB governor and league chairman Robert Non, with both confirming that they'll join the rest in a 17-man pool on Monday at the Meralco gym.
"Marcio and June Mar will be at practice tomorrow," said Antonio.
This will mark the 6-10 Fajardo's return to the Gilas program after the two-time league MVP sat out the national team's stint in the last Fiba Asia Championship in Changsha, China, citing plantar fasciitis injuries on both feet.
On the other hand, Lassiter will be joining the national team for the first time since begging off from the 2014 Gilas 2.0 pool along with Greg Slaughter.
The two will join Gilas 3.0 holdovers Marc Pingris, Troy Rosario, Calvin Abueva, Gabe Norwood, Matt Ganuelas Rosser, Ranidel de Ocampo, Jayson Castro, and Terrence Romeo, Rain or Shine's Jeff Chan and Paul Lee, Star's Ian Sangalang, Talk 'N Text's Ryan Reyes, and Ginebra's LA Tenorio, Japeth Aguilar and Slaughter in the first of the once-a-week practices spread over seven months leading up to the Olympic qualifiers in July.
De Ocampo recently suffered a herniated disc in a freak gym accident and won't be able to join the practices, but Antonio confirmed that Gilas pool members arriving from Dubai - namely Abueva, Tenorio, Slaughter and Aguilar - have expressed an intention to join the Monday practice.
Baldwin said he is thrilled to have the best players available for the Olympic qualifiers, but readily made it known that he expects a fierce competition forplaces in the team during the seven-month buildup.
Depending on the availability of naturalized player Andray Blatche and Fil-Am guard Jordan Clarkson, Baldwin will have to cut a maximum seven players and a minimum five before the tournament.