Gilas almost in full force in practice as World Cup qualifier vs Australia draws near
Mood bright in Gilas Pilipinas practice. Jerome Ascano

WITH the exception of dropouts Calvin Abueva and Raymund Almazan along with the injured Terrence Romeo, Gilas Pilipinas pool members showed up in practice two weeks before its first-ever encounter with Australia in the FIBA World Cup qualifiers.

The twin towers of June Mar Fajardo and Japeth Aguilar led the attendees at the Meralco gym along with Troy Rosario, Mac Belo, Gabe Norwood, Allein Maliksi, Carl Bryan Cruz, Roger Pogoy, Kevin Alas, Matthew Wright, Kiefer Ravena, and Jayson Castro.

Pogoy, Wright, and Jalalon were in street clothes though, and just watched the action from the sidelines.

Abueva, who celebrated his birthday on Sunday, again was a no-show a week after telling coach Chot Reyes that he’ll finally attend the team’s weekly practice, while Almazan and Romeo continue to skip the team’s practices.

Members of the 23-man pool for the 2023 FIBA World Cup joined the Gilas regulars, including controversial La Salle stalwart Ricci Rivero.

Gilas is expected to start conducting its daily practices within the week given the proximity of its Feb. 22 game against the Boomers in Melbourne, Australia.

Both Gilas and the Boomers are unbeaten in two games in Group B going to their highly-anticipated match in Melbourne.

“Just (here) to continue to learn and become familiar at attacking bigger size players, that’s why we have our practice team coming in here again today,” said coach Chot Reyes, referring to the bunch of college imports led by Chibuezeh Ikeh, who engaged the Gilas pool again during its five-on-five scrimmages.

The Gilas mentor said La Salle, the last school Rivero played for, has yet to give the young wingman the go-signal on joining the national pool although he’s always welcome to join the team in practice.

“He’s just practicing for now. We still don’t have any official word from his school, but he’s always welcome to come in,” said Reyes.

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Aside from Rivero, other members of the 23-man pool present were Kai Sotto, Juan Gomez de Liano, Arvin Tolentino, Paul Desiderio, JJay Alejandro, Kenneth Tuffin, Will Gozum, Javee Mocon, and new face Carl Tamayo.

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