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    Desperate Reyes turns to Twitter to convince players to join Gilas pool

    Dec 20, 2012

    CHOT Reyes types the names of a handful of players on his handheld device then puts out the shortlist on Twitter, where he has thousands of followers including PBA players themselves. He then proceeds to send out a couple of invitations to players, one of whom responded with an "I'll think abt it" and another said yes.

    Welcome to the recruitment of national players in this digital age.

    "Nakakita ka na ba ng ganoon?" a smiling Reyes told when asked about his latest and most novel effort yet to convince vacationing PBA players to join the Smart Gilas pool that begins practice on Friday for a pair of international tournaments in January. "At least, it's the easiest way to reach players."

    Whether it's out of desperation or just a more imaginative way to reach out to players who spend more and more time on Twitter, Reyes' recruitment plan has undergone some tweaking and led to a lot of tweeting as he tries to put together the best lineup possible considering the roadblocks he has to deal with.

    As it is, Reyes' hands are tied because of a dodgy commitment he has received from the pro league, which has committed pro players to the national team program - so long as their international stints do not 'disturb' the league's schedule.

    For the tournaments in Dubai and Hong Kong which Gilas will play in early January, Gilas got the go-ahead to sign players from the six PBA teams that failed to reach the Philippine Cup semifinals - a deal that basically ruled out most of the league's top players belonging to the marquee ballclubs.

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    But even for those who are available, Reyes still needs to convince the players, who by now are looking forward to vacations during the holiday season, to commit their time and effort to practice with Gilas.

    That's the reason Reyes is waiting with bated breath to see if the two players he most covets for Gilas - Petron star Arwind Santos and top rookie pick June Mar Fajardo - will show up for practice on Friday.

    With the Gilas program run by Reyes and other members of Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas head Manny Pangilinan's camp and taking into account their testy relationship with the San Miguel group, the bet is neither Santos nor Fajardo will end up suiting up for Gilas, even if Santos has gone on record saying, "gustong gusto kong maglaro sa national team."

    "Tinatanong nga ako kung bakit may kinuha raw akong player sa Gilas na inconsistent kung maglaro," said Reyes. "Ang sabi ko lang, mas maganda na ang inconsistent kaysa absent."

    There, too, is the problem with injuries to key players like LA Tenorio and Gary David, both of whom have opted to rest nagging knocks instead of committing their time to Gilas. Both were key members of the Gilas team that won the Jones Cup in Taipei and finished fourth in the Fiba Asia Cup in Tokyo.

    To address the shortfall, Reyes said he has tapped Meralco gunner Ronjay Buenafe to take the place of David and is bringing back JayR Reyes to bolster the frontline of a team that will also be tapping amateur players from the Gilas cadet pool like Greg Slaughter, Kevin Alas, and Kiefer Ravena.

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    Friday's practice will also give Reyes and his staff the chance to check out Justin Melton, a Fil-American guard who Reyes hopes can fill the void to be left by Tenorio at the point guard spot.

    "He looks impressive on video," Reyes said. "But you know how it is, until you see them play first-hand you won't know how good players really are."

    He has tried recruiting US D-League hopeful Japeth Aguilar, who responded through Twitter that he will consider the option, but got a more favorable response from Air21 high-flyer Nino Canaleta, who was flooded with congratulatory tweets from friends and fans the moment he said yes to Reyes.

    Canaleta, at best, is a questionable choice, but Reyes insisted: "You can play your way into the national team as much as you can play yourself out of it. And with the way Canaleta has played in the last conference, I think he deserves a shot at making this team."

    Reyes said the Dubai tournament will serve two purposes for Gilas.

    "One, we want to see which PBA players can augment the core of the Jones Cup team," he said. "Second, we want to prepare the members of the Gilas cadet pool not only for the Southeast Asian Games next year but, just in case, for the Fiba Asia Men to be played in August next year."

    Oh, that problem.

    You see, the start of the Fiba Asia Men tournament in Beirut, which serves as the regional qualifer for the 2014 world championships, has been moved from September to late August or just a couple of days after the end of the PBA's season-ending finals, putting in doubt the availability of the league's top players.

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    Reyes is worried, of course, but he's hopeful there is no problem a little tweaking, and perhaps a lot of tweeting, can't solve.

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