UNITED they stand.
Members of Gilas Pilipinas are setting aside any hurt feelings in the wake of the coaching staff’s grueling decision to finally name the final 12-man roster set to see action against Japan in the opener of its FIBA World Cup qualifier campaign on Friday.
Late cuts Raymund Almazan, Carl Bryan Cruz, and Mac Belo accepted 'with dignity and respect' the move of Chot Reyes to leave them out for the Filipinos’ 6 p.m. game against the Japanese at the Komazawa Olympic Park General Sports Ground Stadium in Tokyo.
Reyes made the announcement just before noon of Thursday, but not before talking to the three players early in the morning.
Like true pros, Almazan, Belo, and Cruz accepted their fate.
“Professional naman kaming tatlo. Naiintindihan naman namin yun kung ano yung mas makakabuti sa team,” said Almazan, the 6-foot-7 center of Rain or Shine.
Added Cruz, the sophomore forward of Alaska, “Yung mga ganitong bagay kaya na nating i-handle ito. Tsaka part naman ito ng isang player, pinagdadaanan natin ito.”
Before making the final cuts known, Reyes explained the coaching staff had to consider the kind of team Japan is and the current health status of the members of the pool.
“Basically, we took into account the kind of team we’re playing tomorrow and also took into account our health and injury situation,” he said.
Almazan arrived in the Japanese capital nursing a sprained ankle while Belo is coming off a knee procedure that kept him out for the middle of the just conclude 42nd season of the PBA.
But the three are not taking anything against anybody, especially Reyes and his coaching staff.
“Yung commitment, willing naming ibigay yung best namin pagdating sa scouting at tsaka kung ano yung maitutulong s team andun lang kami sa likod ninyo para mag boost ng energy ninyo,” said Belo of Blackwater.
“Sabi nga ni coach, huwag magbabago yung intensity namin sa practice,” Almazan added. “Alam din niya yung sitwasyon. Andito lang kami, kung ano yung maliit na bagay na matutulong namin sa team, gagawin namin.”
“Yung commitment namin 101 percent pa rin. Hindi yun magbabago. Hindi magbabago ang tingin namin sa inyo. Sana hindi rin magbago yung tingnin ninyo sa amin,” said Cruz.
Reyes was obviously relieved hearing the three committing themselves to support the team after having seen several instances in the past on how late cuts somehow affected Gilas’ campaign.
The Gilas coach stressed nothing changes as everybody remains a part of the team, and everyone still gets a shot to play in future games under the new FIBA home-and-away format.
“Still nothing changes. We’re still 15-man strong. Guys are going to be ready to play tomorrow (Friday) together on the floor,” he said. “It doesn’t change the team that we have here and the kind of brotherhood that we have built.
“We didn’t want to make this a big deal because like we said, this is just game one. Marami pa tayong lalaruin.”