GIVEN the choice between hosting the 2013 FIBA-Asia Championship For Men or go with a star-studded lineup consisting of PBA players for the same tournament in Lebanon, Smart Gilas-Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes has no hesitation baring what his heart yearns for.
“Mas malakas ang dasal ko na magpahiram ng players ang mga PBA teams. Kasi kung dito gagawin `yung event, wala rin tayong (quality) players, eh di balewala,” exclaimed the outspoken national coach.
A little less than seven months before the qualifier for next year’s FIBA-World Basketball Championship is held, the country has yet to come up with a formal lineup to speak of for the August 1-11 tournament.
The country is still on a standby whether it will replace Lebanon as host of the quadrennial tournament after losing the rights to stage the meet in last year’s bidding.
And Reyes is on a stand-in too, as to whether he’ll be able to tap the services of the country’s best players for the FIBA-Asia tilt since until now he’s at a lost as to who will be available for the national team by the time the biggest basketball event in Asia is played seven months from now.
As per PBA calendar, assuming the best-of-seven Finals of the season-ending Governors Cup reaches the full route, the league won’t conclude its operation until July 28, or about four days before the start of the world basketball qualifier.
“Hindi ko pa rin alam eh. I doubt kung mag-a-adjust ng calendar ang PBA. Yung FIBA talagang August 1 na `yun. Hindi ko alam kung ano mangyayari,” said Reyes as he scratches his head.
“In the first place, hindi ko alam kung sino ang available (na players). It’s useless para gumawa ng line-up kung hindi mo alam kung sino pwede at hindi,” said the national coach, who is well aware of the condition set by the league in lending its players for the Philippine team.
For the record, league commissioner Chito Salud agreed to loan the PBA players to the Smart Gilas-Pilipinas pool provided the players agree to do so and their respective mother teams are not playing in the Final Four of any of the three tournaments.
“Lahat ng kalaban natin, naghahanda na lang… Ang problema na lang nila paano mag-praktis, tayo eto, andun pa lang sa tanong na ‘sino kaya ang team natin,” explained Reyes.
“At least, binibigyan na natin ng partida (ang kalaban),” Reyes could only say in jest.
Bracing for the worst, Reyes didn’t deny the possibility of ending up with a national team comprised of cadet players from the amateur and collegiate leagues.
“Iyan ang isang reason kaya lilipad kami ng Dubai (Wednesday) para i-expose na `yung mga batang players na ito (cadets). Ini-hahanda na namin sila. At least, may ginagawa tayo,” Reyes reiterated.
“Eh, kung wala rin tayong maihanda, ito na talaga ang gagamitin natin.”
But asked if there are players he expects to come in later, Reyes was honest in answering, “Tingin ko wala.”
“Sa totoo lang, mas mabuti na `yung mag-hintay ako ng wala tapos meron palang dadating, kesa mag-abang ako ng meron tapos wala pala talaga.”
Initially, the league’s only five-time Coach of the Year wanted to begin preparations for the FIBA-Asia meet as early as February, but problems with the formation of the team has been the major roadblock to his endeavor.
“Hindi ko talaga alam, ginawa na namin ang lahat eh,” was all he could mutter.