FORMER national coach Tim Cone said Beau Belga's exclusion from the Gilas Pilipinas squad no longer came as a surprise to him, adding Chot Reyes' penchant for playing small lineups made a frontliner rather than a guard, dispensable ahead of the Fiba-Asia championships.
“I will say I’m not surprised (with the decision to drop Belga)," said Cone just before San Mig Coffee's practice on Thursday at the Ronac gym in San Juan. "I expected coach Chot to keep his three-point (shooting) guards because I know Chot likes to play small at times.”
“Chot can play them (LA Tenorio, Jason Castro and Jimmy Alapag) at the same time, put a hard-pressure team and they all are great shooters,” he added.
Cone said even with the choice narrowed down to the frontline players, the decision on who to drop wasn't easy for Reyes.
Another big man who many believe was also in the bubble ahead of the final cut, Ginebra's Japeth Aguilar, has great athleticism which could be a plus for Gilas, especially in games against quicker Asian teams, Cone added.
“I think Japeth gave them a little bit more athleticism, length and quickness on the floor,” said Cone, who steered the PBA-bannered Centennial team to a bronze-medal finish in the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok.
Still, Cone was full of praise for Belga, comparing the Rain or Shine banger with Bong Hawkins - a vital cog in Alaska’s run to several PBA championships in the 1990s.
“I know Chot is in love with Beau because he’s such an intelligent player. He reminds me a lot of Bong Hawkins who’s very instinctively smart, sees the play develop before anyone sees it, and plays beyond his limitations,” said Cone.
“Beau knows when to use his body, knows when to be physical and when to back off, and I know Chot values that. Chot had to make a tough decision though,” he said.
For his part, Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao is convinced Reyes’ decision to drop Belga will have a positive effect on the team's bruising big man.
“I don’t think ‘yung pagka-cut is something that will affect him, his morale or attitude. It will have a positive effect on him,” Guiao said.
“I’m sure Beau has no regrets. Anyway you look at it, he gained the experience training with the national team,” Guiao added. “Being considered for the national team is an indication of how he has improved over the past two, three years.”