Last chance to bring in more players to Gilas pool as PBA board meets in Tokyo
PBA president and CEO Chito Salud will preside over the Tokyo meet. Jerome Ascano

THE bidding for the 2019 Fiba World Cup in Tokyo is over and done with, but the men of Manny V. Pangilinan will have one last business to take care of.

Some of MVP's top lieutenants are sticking around in the Japanese capital for the annual strategic planning of the PBA board, where they hope to convince fellow governors to release some more players for the Gilas Pilipinas team bound for the Fiba Asia championship next month.

The league's planning session represents the last chance of bring in more players to the national team, which has been training in earnest since last week under Tab Baldwin but is clearly a man or two short in key positions with players drafted for the pool becoming unavailable.

Pangilinan and his men, both at PLDT and the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), were out in full force in Tokyo since Wednesday for the final presentation for the bidding of the 2019 World Cup, which the Philippines lost to China, 7-14, in the balloting among members of the Fiba Central Board.

[See MVP says sorry after Philippines loses 2019 Fiba World Cup bid war to China]

Some of them will join the entire league board headed by incoming chairman Robert Non of San Miguel Corp. for sessions beginning on Sunday, hopefully to persuade fellow team executives to allow more players to join the Gilas pool.

PBA president and CEO Chito Salud was also part of the SBP bid team and will be joining the league board in the Tokyo planning sessions. Also joining the sessions is new commissioner Chito Narvasa.

Even Pangilinan and SBP executive director Sonny Barrios are still on Tokyo to attend the Fiba board meeting, but it is not known if they will stay around for the PBA planning session.

“They are hoping na magkakaroon pa ng chance na makahiram ng extra players,” one insider said. “And the Japan trip might just be the last chance para makakuha ng needed personnel.”

Among the players reportedly still being pursued by Baldwin for inclusion in the national team are SMC players June Mar Fajardo, Marcio Lassiter, Marc Pingris, and LA Tenorio, as well as Rain or Shine stars Paul Lee, Jeff Chan, and Raymond Almazan.

[See We're really hurting for numbers, admits Baldwin]

As the Gilas drama dragged on, PBA legend Abe King said he is saddened at how the national team had to beg for support from teams.


“Pwedeng habulin 'yung mga players na nakikita nilang kailangan. Pero ang tanong kasi ngayon, ilang lingo na lang ang tournament wala pa tayong team na nabubuo. Saan na naman tayo pupulutin nyan?” said King, a former Toyota star who is now based in the US.

King said he hopes it's not too late for team owners to come to a compromise with players like Fajardo, who he said is integral to Gilas' coming campaign.

“Number one kasi dyan talaga 'yung magbaba ka na muna ng pride para sa pride ng bansa. Kaso sa maliit na oras na nalalabi, parang huli na ang lahat,” he said.

[See Baldwin rues Fajardo absence: 'Gilas can't replace what he brings to the team']

King acknowledged that Fajardo's situation is a touchy issue.

“Kung may injury, wala tayong magagawa. Maski ako kung may injury ako kahit anong kagustuhan kong maglaro, hindi ako lalaro. Ibibigay ko na sa iba,” he said. “Sinabi na ngang may injury, may mga doctors' order naman yan.”

“Sana nga lang talaga may injury, kasi kung wala, ibang usapan na 'yun,” he said laughing. “Lahat naman yan meron 'yang karma eh. Good or bad, may karma 'yan. Meron lahat 'yan."

With the clock ticking, King said it is better to focus on the players who committed to the Gilas program.

“Wag nang magturo pa ng iba. Kung ano ang nandyan (sa pool) yun ang ayusin nila. Make the most out of it, kung sino pa ang natitira. Kung sino ang andyan, yun na lang ang palakasin. Wala na tayong oras eh."

“Pero at the end of the day, ang sana kalimutan dyan eh personalan. Kailangan nating makabuo ng mas malakas na team. Nangyayari kasi ata personalan na eh. Hindi dapat ganyan ang team natin,” he said.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @snowbadua