PBA superstar Arwind Santos and Petron teammate Marcio Lassiter as well as Smart Gilas old hand Jimmy Alapag have expressed willingness to join the national team program should their services be needed for the Fiba-Asia Champions Cup campaign in Japan next month.
Speaking just hours after a Gilas team led by LA Tenorio and Marcus Douthit took the country’s first Jones Cup title in 14 years in Taipei, Santos said he was supposed to be a part of Chot Reyes’ team but had to beg off after failing to get the go-signal from management.
Given the chance, the 6-5 forward with the unbelievable wingspan said he’s excited to don the national colors.
“Di lang ako pinayagan sumama sa team, pero excited na ako maglaro sa national team. Siyempre, para yan sa bayan,” Santos told Spin.ph after playing in Asi Taulava’s charity basketball game on Sunday night at the Ynares Center in Pasig City.
“Gusto kasi ng team management na mag-concentrate muna ako sa pag-prepare namin sa All-Filipino. Pero, masaya ako kasi yung panalo ng Gilas II, panalo nating lahat iyan.”
From all the players of the three San Miguel-controlled teams, it was only Enrico Villanueva of Ginebra who was allowed to suit up for the Gilas II team that went 7-1 in Taipei en route to the most significant achievement by a national basketball team since the Centennial Team’s victory in the same tournament back in 1998.
The non-availability of San Miguel players had become a contentious issue in the lead-up to the Jones Cup, fanning the rivalry between SMC teams and those controlled by the PLDT group of Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas head Manny Pangilinan.
Caught in the crossfire was Marcus Lassiter, a Gilas original who ended up playing for Petron as a pro after a trade with the former Powerade team of Coca-Cola.
“I salute the Gilas II team for a job well done. If I’m given a chance to play again, I’d love to be part of the program,” said Lassiter. “Playing in that kind of a tournament is tough because you get to match up with strong teams, then still have to deal with playing almost every day.”
Alapag, back at full strength after an injury-plagued 2012 season, said he would like to sit down and discuss with Reyes how he could possibly help the Smart-Gilas II once the national squad flies back to Manila.
“When they get back to Manila, I would like to talk with coach Chot and see how some of us could help the team further because we also have the Stankovic Cup (Champions Cup) this September. I would like to make myself available if they would need me for that tournament,” said the longtime national player and 2011 PBA MVP.
Meantime, Talk ‘n Text team manager Aboy Castro, who served as one of Reyes’ assistant coaches in the national team from 2005-2007, is convinced the ongoing Smart-Gilas II program is the right formula that could help bring the Philippines back to respectability in the international stage.
“Winning the Jones Cup is definitely a step in the right direction. That’s exactly what we need as we build up our basketball program. I think the right formula for the national team is putting together players who are 28-30 years old and reinforce them with a naturalized player,” said Castro.