Followers of basketball in the Philippines, both national pros and international “amateurs,” are aware that there is a special relationship between the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) and the men’s national basketball team aka Gilas Pilipinas. Arguably Gilas can be at its strongest player potential whenever the PBA lends some of its best in time for the squad to go overseas to compete. With the FIBA Asia Cup coming this August, Gilas once it passes qualifiers will need to practice with the best. And as the national league is planning to start the season with its first conference in April, they are offering Gilas intense training.
According to CNN Philippines the PBA is offering to include Gilas Pilipinas as a guest team for the Philippine Cup, the first conference in the league’s 2021-22 season. PBA commissioner Willie Marcial has extended the invite, saying it will help the national team’s players gain experience against pro-level opposition, better to prepare them for the FIBA Asia Cup and other future international basketball tilts. This is not actually the first time Gilas has played in the PBA; in 2009 the initial roster of the squad to carry the Gilas name did participate as a guest.
The proposal has been met with open arms by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), as its president Al Panlilio has noted how past Gilas rosters did benefit from getting to play against established PBA teams. The country’s national sport association for basketball has expressed willingness to discuss the matter further, as soon as the team returns from the third window of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers in Doha, Qatar, which runs from February 18 to 22. Given that the actual Cup in Jakarta is four months from the start of the PBA Philippine Cup there should be plenty of playing time for Gilas should they join in the conference.
At present, the core Gilas Pilipinas roster is composed of five players picked in a special draft from 2019. A second draft has been scheduled by the SBP this coming March 14, the names to be included in which will be submitted sometime this week. Among the possible draftees is Kai Sotto, who returned to the Philippines after taking leave from his NBA G-League team. A second name is Angelo Kouame from the Ivory Coast, for which legislation to confer him Filipino citizenship, House Bill 8632, has passed on the second reading in the House of Representatives, with a positive third reading more than likely.
Image courtesy of Inquirer.net