SMART Gilas 2.0 coach Chot Reyes said James Yap, Arwind Santos, Marcio Lassiter and the other players from San Miguel-owned teams are welcome to rejoin the national team program, although they have to go through the selection process like everybody else.
All except one: Marc Pingris.
“Pumunta lang s’ya sa practice, tatanggapin ko na s’ya,” said Reyes of the San Mig Coffee (formerly B-Meg) power forward. “He’s the one player I need most in the team right now.”
Pingris and San Mig teammate Yap as well as Santos, Lassiter and Alex Cabagnot of Petron were among the players from the three teams under the SMC umbrella who were dropped from Reyes’ original pool after refusing to sign a letter of commitment with the Gilas program.
Only one player from SMC, Ginebra’s Enrico Villanueva, remained in the pool.
That has left Reyes no choice but to fill his 14-man lineup with second- and third-choice players from the pool for the Jones Cup campaign, where Gilas 2.0 beat formidable odds to clinch the country’s fourth title in the Taipei event and first in 14 years.
From the five, Santos and Lassiter have gone on record to say they are eager to rejoin the Gilas pool in separate interviews with Spin.ph.
Reyes has kept the door open for the five SMC players to rejoin the national pool as he and his coaching staff deliberate on the final lineup for the Fiba Asia Cup in Japan. The deadline for the submission of the teams’ 12-man lineups is on Friday.
“They’re all welcome,” Reyes told Spin.ph after a round of golf at Wack Wack in Mandaluyong City. “All they have to do is sign the letter of commitment, show up for practice then we’ll see.
“They’ll be part of the pool. But just like everyone else, they have to earn their spot.”
However, Reyes said Santos, Yap, Cabagnot and Lassiter may find it hard to regain their places in the lineup for the Japan tournament considering most of the pool members who stepped up and filled their spots gave a good account of themselves in the Jones Cup campaign.
“Maraming nag-step up, players like (Larry) Fonacier, LA Tenorio and (Sol) Mercado. Take the case of Sol. Papaano mo isisingit sina Cabagnot at Jayson Castro ngayon e ang ganda ng nilaro ni Sol. Papaano mo sila isisingit ngayon? Sino tatanggalin mo?” Reyes said.
There is also the danger of messing up the team chemistry, Reyes said.
"It's very rare that a hastily assembled team comes together like the team in Taipei," the Gilas coach said. "Paano mo ngayon bubulabugin ang chemistry. Mamaya, maglalagay ka ng ibang players d'yan, magaling nga pero masisira naman ang chemistry ng team."
Reyes said the tough-as-nails Pingris is a different case, only because he was the type of player Gilas needed – and missed – in Taipei.
“When Pingris backed out, his place was supposed to be taken by Japeth (Aguilar) but he, too, begged off. So napunta kay Jay-R Reyes,” he said. “But we can really use a guy like Pingris (in Japan). He’s one player who can guard all positions except center.”
Reyes said he expects to make between three to four changes – “Maximum na ang apat,” he said – to the Jones Cup-winning team when he submits his lineup for the Fiba Asia Cup.
“We’ll sit down and talk about it today and tomorrow, look at the stats, review the performances (in Taipei) then come up with a decision by Thursday night,” Reyes said.