GILAS Ponders PBA PLAY to Prep for FIBA WORLD CUP

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In the course of the Philippines’ very own Gilas Pilipinas men’s basketball team and their campaign to qualify for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup, there have been several figurative jump-scares on our chances to make it. Not the least of all the team’s travails has been the embarrassing bench-clearing brawl against Team Australia last year, that saw Gilas lose after being left with one man on the court. Ultimately the boys failed to auto-qualify as one of the top 3 for Round 2 – Group F, but they pulled through with two great wins to squeak by. Now, the time has come to plan for the World Cup in August.

Fox Sports Philippines reports that there is a proposal for keeping the players of Gilas Pilipinas actively training in the interim following the FIBA Asia qualifiers and the Cup itself. The bold idea is to register the team as a temporary addition to the national league, Philippine Basketball Association (PBA). Gilas would then participate in the Commissioner’s Cup, the second of three conferences in the 2019 PBA season and starting before the FIBA World Cup period. It is an ingenious solution for training Gilas, and has actually been done before.

Back when the national team was called Smart Gilas and led by Rajko Toroman, they actually did join the PBA for two seasons, participating in the 2009-10 season’s Philippine Cup and then the 2011 Commissioner’s Cup. This was part of their conditioning prior to competing in the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship which would net them an entry into the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games. They failed but achieved the best finish by a Philippine team in the tournament. Earlier still, the PBA-formed “Philippine Centennial Team” played in the league as itself to practice for the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games, where they won the Bronze Medal.

There are however, some issues with this method of conditioning the national team this time around. First, the PBA already has 12 teams and adding Gilas as the 13th could cramp the Commissioner’s Cup schedule. Finally there is the ownership issue, as Gilas, under the SBP program, is under the auspices of Manny V. Pangilinan, who already has NLEX, TNT and Meralco under his name in the league; PBA regulations state a conglomerate can only have three teams max. Lastly, PBA teams might not take kindly to losing their best players to Gilas during the Commissioner’s Cup, even with FIBA World Cup prospects at stake.

Another major aspect of Gilas’ preparations is the pursuing of options to get Filipino-American NBA player Jordan Clarkson on-side once more. He was able to play with the team during the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games, but the chances of the NBA allowing a repeat permission is going to be difficult.

Image courtesy of ABS-CBN News

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