TAIPEI - The PBA board has approved the release of June Mar Fajardo, Calvin Abueva, Terrence Romeo and other veteran players to Gilas Pilipinas for the Fiba Asia Cup, giving national coach Chot Reyes a deeper pool to choose from for his 12-man team to the August 8-20 showcase in Lebanon.
PBA commissioner Chito Narvasa said on Tuesday members of the PBA board gave veteran players who are part of Gilas' 24-man pool the green light to take part in the reformatted Asian championship that now features heavyweight Australia and New Zealand.
Aside from Fajardo, Abueva, and Romeo, other PBA veterans in the 24-man lineup submitted to the Fiba Asia are Japeth Aguilar, Allein Maliksi, Raymond Almazan, Jayson Castro, Kevin Alas, Baser Amer, Norbert Torres, Troy Rosario and the recently recalled Gabe Norwood.
Other members of the Fiba Asia Cup pool are Gilas cadets Carl Bryan Cruz, Kevin Ferrer, Mac Belo, Jio Jalalon, Roger Pogoy, Mac Belo, Mike Tolomia and Matthew Wright, amateur standouts Kobe Paras, Ray Parks and Kiefer Ravena, and naturalized players Andray Blatche and Christian Standhardinger.
The Philippines must submit its 12-man for the Fiba Asia Cup on or before July 25.
At the same time, Narvasa bared that the PBA has revamped its schedule for next season and pushed back its opening to December to align the pro league's schedule with the new home-and-away qualifiers for the 2019 World Cup.
The revamped PBA schedule will have the three World Cup qualifying windows falling on the elimination stages of the pro league, giving teams more leeway to release their players to Gilas.
"We made a proposal to the PBA board to incorporate again the Fiba schedule into the new season," said Narvasa. "Now I have to sit down with Chot and the SBP on how we can go about this."
There were earlier fears that Fajardo and Co. won't be made available for Gilas in the Fiba Asia Cup in Lebanon, which has been stripped of its status as a qualifier for both the World Cup and the Olympics after Fiba launched its new home-and-away format.
Succeeding reports said five PBA teams were having second thoughts releasing their players for the Fiba mission, even if the availability of the players was assured by a memorandum of agreement between the league and the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP).
However, Narvasa said the board merely considered sending a younger team to the watered-down Fiba Asia Cup for exposure and experience and reserve the PBA veterans for the more important qualifiers.
When the PBA board became convinced that the Fiba Asia Cup was equally important, it didn't hesitate in giving the veteran players the clearance, Narvasa added.
The PBA veterans' participation in the Fiba Asia Cup will also mean a disruption in the schedule of the season-ending Governors Cup kicking off on Wednesday.
"Paguusapan namin today on what we'll do to address that," said Narvasa, who assured that the PBA veterans will be released by their mother teams to Gilas training under the terms stated in the MOA between the league and the SBP.
The SBP earlier stated that PBA teams are mandated to release their veterans to Gilas 15 days before the start of a competition.