NATIONAL coach Jong Uichico is hopeful amateur big men Raymund Almazan and Arnold Van Opstal will be able to reinforce the Gilas cadet squad tasked to defend the basketball gold in the Southeast Asian Games in Naypyidaw, Myanmar.
Uichico acknowledged the need of the Myanmar-bound national team to have a back-up center who will spell naturalized player Marcus Douthit in the middle.
Outside the 6-foot-11 Douthit, only cadet mainstay Jake Pascual is the only other big man of the team, which currently has a surplus of forwards and guards.
“Okay naman ang lahat pero hinihintay ko na lang ang confirmation nina Arnold Van Opstal saka Raymund Almazan. Siyempre, we’re guard-heavy kaya we’re hoping the two big men will confirm,” Uichico told Spin.ph on Wednesday.
The 6-foot-7 Almazan of Letran is set to join the PBA Rookie Draft next month and has yet to confirm if he’s joining the national team due to the ongoing NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
The 6-foot-8 Van Opstal, on the other hand, is coming off a glorious campaign with De La Salle which beat University of Santo Tomas for the UAAP championship last week.
“I don’t have the exact reason why Raymund and Arnold are not confirming but probably, dahil na rin mag-pi-PBA si Almazan. Then si Arnold, we all know La Salle is on a high after winning the UAAP, so we don’t know as of this time,” said the multi-titled PBA coach.
A deputy of the Meralco Bolts team, Uichico said the national squad was supposed to hold its first official practice on Tuesday, but it was cancelled due to the unavailability of a practice venue.
He has set evening practices five times a week for the time being, although the schedule is still subject to change once the D-League Aspirants Cup kicks off on October 24.
“We’re pressed for time now. Tapos once magsimula ang D-League, baka di rin kami makumpleto sa practice. So now, we will have to make the most of what we have,” said Uichico, who called the shots for the all-pro national team that finished fourth in the Busan Asian Games 11 years ago.
The national pool currently includes cadet players Kevin Alas, Matt Ganuelas, Jake Pascual and Ronald Pascual.
RR Garcia already begged off from the team after getting a clearance to join the PBA rookie draft on November 3.
Others invited to join the pool are reigning UAAP MVP Terrence Romeo, Mark Belo, Bobby Ray Parks, Jericho Cruz, Prince Caperal, Roi Sumang, and Kevin Ferrer.
Fil-foreign players’ Chris Newsome Chris Banchero were scratched from the original list of invited players after the Myanmar SEA Games organizers decided to enforce the Fiba eligibility rule, which requires foreign-born players to be passport holders at the age of 16 years.
Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia again loom as the country’s chief rivals for the gold in the biennial meet which the Filipinos have dominated 15 times in the last 16 editions.
With a team coached by Norman Black, the Philippines retained the gold during the 2011 staging of the SEA Games in Indonesia following an 85-57 beating of Thailand in the title game.