GILAS cadet coach Jong Uichico is counting on De La Salle big man Arnold Van Opstal to shore up the frontline of the national team as he braces for surprises from Indonesia and other regional rivals in the coming Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar.
Uichico said he understands Van Opstal’s academic concerns, which is why he is giving him some time to get the necessary clearance from the school first before joining the national team.
[For full story, see DLSU's final exams stand in the way of Van Opstal's stint with PH team]
“Siyempre, he (Van Opstal) has to fix his requirements in class first. Kasi mawawala siya during the time na magsi-SEA Games. So maybe, he just has to make some extra work in school since part iyan ng (UAAP) eligibility niya for next year,” Uichico told Spin.ph.
But once the 6-foot-7 La Salle slotman gets cleared, Uichico said the national team will have the size to ensure a solid backup for naturalized center Marcus Douthit.
Uichico said he’s open to the idea of playing the 6’10” Douthit alongside Van Opstal if the need arises, considering that the national squads of Thailand, Indonesia or even Malaysia might spring some “surprises.”
“Importante yung may backup tayo kay Marcus,” said the former national player-turned national coach. “Sabi kasi may magagaling daw ang Indonesia. Of course, Thailand and Malaysia are still there. But we still have to check on their lineups also.”
PBA rookie applicants RR Garcia, Terrence Romeo and Raymond Almazan are also among the players Uichico hopes would be able to join the squad, but it will be up to the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas to ask the pro league to allow the draftees to play for the national team.
The PBA rookie draft is set November 3, while the SEA Games is set December 11 to 22.