JUST moments after announcing the composition of his new 17-man pool, Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes admitted he is aware of questions on why Mark Barroca is not among the candidates for spots to the team bound for the World Cup in Spain and the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.
The questions, of course, are legitimate.
The vastly improved San Mig guard is the hottest player in the PBA at the moment, having played a starring role in the Mixers' run to the Philippine Cup championship that culminated with a Finals MVP award in the 4-2 conquest of Rain or Shine in the title series.
The 5-9 Barroca has not only established himself in so short a time as one of the top playmakers in the league, but he has also had tons of experience in playing overseas, having been part of the original Smart Gilas team put together by Rajko Toroman.
No wonder there were a lot of raised eyebrows when national coach Reyes bypassed the Zamboagueno and instead picked Rain or Shine's Paul Lee, Meralco's Jared Dillinger, and San Miguel Beer's Marcio Lassiter to beef up his backcourt and wing position for the two major tournaments.
In a talk with Spin.ph on Friday, Reyes recognized the great strides Barroca has made over the past few years. Nonetheless, he explained his decisions.
First, the multi-titled coach pointed out that the Gilas team to the Fiba-Asia championships last August was built to beat South Korea, the reason he picked three "small and quick" guards in LA Tenorio of Ginebra and the Talk 'N Text duo of Jason Castro and Jimmy Alapag.
"You should remember that that team was built for Korea, that's why I chose small but quick guards to match up against the Koreans' speedy backcourt," Reyes said.
The dynamics, however, are bound to change now that Reyes is building a new team for the World Cup.
The opposition in Spain, Reyes said, has prompted the need to upgrade his backcourt with big guards in the mold of Lee and Dillinger - two capable ballhandlers who have both the size and the quickness to better match up against the tall backcourts of European, African, and American teams.
"I need size in that backcourt," the five-time PBA Coach of the Year said.
On the other hand, Reyes said Lassiter, easily among the finest three-point gunners in the pro league right now, can add versatility to the wing position, assuming he bumps off anyone among Jeff Chan, Larry Fonacier, or Gary David for spots in the Gilas team.
The same goes for Ginebra rookie Greg Slaughter who should add much-needed size to Gilas' frontline in Spain, Reyes said.
Without saying it directly, Reyes made it clear Barroca doesn't fit the team's needs in the World Cup and the Asian Games. "What I need right now is size (in the backcourt), that's why I took in Paul Lee and JD (Dillinger)," he said.
If Reyes is to add Barroca to his backcourt, he will more or less be a duplication of his original backcourt of Tenorio, Alapag, and Castro, meaning he will have to bump off anyone of the three to claim his place in the national team.
Assuming he tapped Barroca, Reyes said "there’s nobody who can tell me for sure kung sino ang tatanggalin ko sa tatlong guards."