IF plans push through, the Philippine national men’s basketball team could see action in the local pro league come next season. Gilas Pilipinas’ participation in a regular Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) tournament was one of the topics discussed in a special meeting between officials of the PBA and the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) on Monday.
League officials said the PBA is open to welcoming the national team if Gilas has no scheduled competition.
The nationals could suit up as early as the Philippine Cup, which is targeted to open in April.
As a guest team, Gilas is to be bannered by the special draft players selected for the national team in 2019, namely: Isaac Go (Terrafirma), Rey Suerte (Blackwater), Matt Nieto (NLEX), Allyn Bulanadi (Alaska), and Mike Nieto (Rain or Shine).
They are to be joined by the players selected in another special Gilas draft this year, which was also discussed in the special meeting.
The team could also be shored up by collegiate standouts, who have to get clearance from regulators first to be able to participate in the professional tournament.
In allowing Gilas to participate, the PBA hopes to help the national team in their preparation for upcoming tournaments, including the 2023 FIBA World Cup, where the Philippines is one of the hosts.
As an added incentive, Gilas is eligible to win a PBA title even if it is a guest team.
Gilas’ participation in the PBA is not the first time that such is happening.
Back in the 1980s, the national team backed by Northern Consolidated Cement competed in the PBA and even won a title — the 1985 PBA Reinforced Conference.
The team, composed of the likes of future PBA stars Hector Calma, Samboy Lim, Yves Dignadice, and Allan Caidic, backstopped by naturalized players Jeff Moore and Dennis Still and coached by Ron Jacobs, swept Manila Beer (4-0) in the finals.
Early iterations of Gilas Pilipinas also paraded their wares in the PBA.
Meanwhile, the league said the SBP is eyeing three to five players during the special selection for Gilas during the league’s rookie draft on March 14.
The SBP is expected to submit the names of players it wants to tap from the rookie pool “within the week.” A total record of 97 players submitted their applications for the draft this year.
In another Gilas development, FIBA recently released the schedule for the relocated third and final window of the Asia Cup Qualifiers this month.
Set to happen here in the country until travel restrictions on incoming foreigners from countries with known cases of new coronavirus strains derailed it, Group A matches, where the Philippines plays, will now be played in Doha, Qatar.
Gilas (3-0) is to play three matches in the Doha window from Feb. 18 to 22.
It faces off with Korea (2-0) on Feb. 18 and 22 and Indonesia (1-2) on Feb. 20.
Thailand (0-4) is the other team in Group A.
All the games will be played behind closed doors to guard against the spread of the coronavirus.
Gilas is currently training in a “bubble” setup at the INSPIRE Sports Academy in Laguna.
The training pool is composed of cadets and PBA players.
They are Gilas cadets Dwight Ramos, Justine Baltazar, Will Navarro, Calvin Oftana, Dave Ildefonso, Javi and Juan Gomez de Liano, and Kemark Carino.
The pro players are Roger Pogoy and Troy Rosario (TNT), Justine Chua (Phoenix Super LPG), CJ Perez (Terrafirma), Kiefer Ravena and Raul Soyud (NLEX).
Also part of the pool are special Gilas draftees Go, Suerte and Matt and Mike Nieto.
National Basketball Association G League player Kai Sotto is to join the training pool as well.