GILAS cadet national coach Jong Uichico is set to move on without La Salle center Arnold Van Opstal as the Filipinos are now deep in their preparation to defend the country’s Southeast Asian Games men’s basketball gold medal in Myanmar next month.
Uichico invited Van Opstal to join the original 19-man list for the Gilas cadet pool last month. But with the La Salle star big man still failing to get the green light from the school to join the national squad due to his finals exams, Uichico said he had to make the tough decision.
“He’s (Van Opstal) having a hard time with fixing his classes because he’ll be away for quite some time,” Uichico told Spin.ph after the team’s regular practice at the Ynares Center in Pasig.
Uichico, who also serves as one of Meralco Bolts’ assistant coaches, explained that forcing Van Opstal to play for the national team could even be detrimental to the Fil-German’s UAAP eligibility for next year.
“I don’t want to jeopardize his eligibility for next school year.”
The SEA Games basketball competition is set December 8 to 16 at the Zayar Thiri Indoor Stadium, with playdates falling on dates when Van Opstal needs to take his finals examination at La Salle.
Van Opstal, who recently helped La Salle win the UAAP men’s basketball crown over University of Santo Tomas in the Finals, would have served chief backup to naturalized center Marcus Douthit.
So far, this year’s Philippine squad will only have Jake Pascual, a cadet mainstay, Mark Belo of Far Eastern University and possibly Prince Caperal of Arellano University as the big men who could spell Douthit at the slot.
Also named to the team were Gilas cadets Kevin Alas, Garvo Lanete, Ronald Pascual, and Matt Ganuelas, along with college stars Bobby Ray Parks, Kiefer Ravena, Kevin Ferrer, Roi Sumang and Jericho Cruz.
One player will be placed on the reserve list just before the SEA Games basketball competition, although changes can still be made to the lineup until the day before the tournament.