INELIGIBLE to play for Gilas Pilipinas, Sol Mercado is still ready to lend a helping hand in the national team's preparations for the coming FIBA-Asia Men’s Basketball Championship.
The Fil-Puerto Rican guard said he’s ready to take on any role just to help the national team - yes even if it meant serving as practice player for coach Chot Reyes’ team.
“If coach Chot wants me, I will be more than willing,” said the 28-year-old former Biola University standout, a day after Reyes formally announced his 17-man Gilas Pilipinas team on Thursday.
Mercado has played for the Jones Cup-winning Gilas team, but he was barred from playing in Fiba-run tournaments owing to a new regulation that declared as ineligible players who failed to acquire their citizenship of choice before turning 16.
The same Fiba rule almost cost Chris Lutz and Marcio Lassiter the chance to play for Gilas Pilipinas during the 2011 Fiba-Asia Olympic qualifying tournament in Wuhan, China.
“I wish I could... Sayang... you know, they have that new rule in Fiba... (But) I am here to support if they need a guy to come in and practice with them and help them,” said the new Globalport recruit.
“Whatever coach Chot needs from me to help the guys... I am still a part of the family,” added Mercado.
Mercado was actually also handpicked by former Gilas coach Rajko Toroman for the 2011 Fiba-Asia meet, but never had the chance to play for the team because of a foot injury.
But he did play under Toroman as part of the national team that saw action during the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, China.
Just late last year, Mercado was pursued by a commercial squad team from Puerto Rico, where a possible slot to the national team was also being dangled.
“The offer is still there, but I respect my contract in the PBA. We’ll see when it expires,” bared Mercado.