THE way Mark Caguioa is playing these days, Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes can't help but sit up and take notice.
“Ang ganda. Grabe talaga ang performance (ni Caguioa),” said Reyes, who is now preparing the national team for the Fiba-Asia Championship set this August in Manila. "Talagang tinitignan ko talaga 'yun."
Reyes admitted Caguioa, who leads the PBA Commissioner's Cup in scoring while sparking a revival for Barangay Ginebra, was one of the players he talked to before he formed his 17-man Gilas pool for the August 1-11 tournament serving as the qualifier for the 2014 world championships in Spain.
“Dati nag-usap kami, sabi niya sa akin, bayaan na raw muna yung iba," said the Gilas coach. "Kasi maganda na yung tinatakbo ng team, baka makagulo lang daw.”
The PBA's only five-time Coach of the Year said it won't be hard to insert and find a place in the Gilas pool for Caguioa, who incidentally was the starting guard of the Philippine team during Reyes' first tour of duty as national coach during the 2007 Fiba-Asia Championships in Tokushima, Japan.
“Ay hindi mahirap isingit yun," he said. "“Malaking bagay sa akin noon si Mark, siya pa nga yung starting 2-guard ko, di ba? Maganda yung nilaro niya noon for the national team.”
But Reyes was also the first one to admit that getting Ginebra's nod to sign up Caguioa would be close to impossible, considering San Miguel Corp.'s firm stand on loaning to Gilas just one player from each of the three teams under its umbrella.
Reyes has already signed Jones Cup MVP LA Tenorio from Ginebra, as well as June Mar Fajardo from Petron and Marc Pingris from San Mig Coffee.
“Hindi ko na rin pinapadapo sa isip ko na makuha si Mark, kasi alam ko rin na malabong mangyari,” said Reyes.
With the Commissioner's Cup eliminations past the halfway stage of the eliminations, Reyes is looking forward to shifting from once-a-week practices to daily sessions as pool members belonging to eliminated teams begin committing full-time to Gilas.
“Pagkatapos nito or pag may available na sa mga eliminated teams ngayong conference, mag-a-araw-araw na kami,” Reyes. “Kailangan na talaga naming mag ensayo para hindi kami mag-cramming."
Since the Philippines is guaranteed a place in the Fiba-Asia Championships as host, Gilas will no longer be competing in the Seaba tournament.
“Dapat talaga itong Gilas ang dadalhin ko dun (sa Seaba) para sureball tayo sa slot, pero tayo na ang host, kaya di na tayo sasali run, kasi baka may ma-injure pa,” Reyes said.