Reyes: No current plans to push for SMC players
MANILA, Philippines - When the men's Philippine basketball team Smart Gilas II first left for the Jones Cup on Saturday, August 18, their main goal was to learn.
On Sunday, August 26, the Philippines came from behind to beat the USA, 76-75.
Since the team has returned, a Senate resolution to recognize Gilas' achievement has been introduced. Filipinos are suddenly excited on social media, expressing high hopes for the team, which aims to qulaify for the 2014 FIBA World Championships in Spain.
Players like Arwind Santos and Marcio Lassiter have also expressed interest in joining the team according to Spin.PH.
Petron teammates Santos and Lassiter were invited to join the Philippine contingent by the Gilas coaching staff, but were allegedly disallowed by the management. Of the players who are part of San Miguel-owned teams, only one, Enrico Villanueva, has been allowed to play for Gilas.
The other players under San Miguel-owned teams that were invited to play for Gilas II are Alex Cabagnot of Petron, and James Yap and Marc Pingris of SanMig Coffee (formerly B-Meg).
Head Coach Chot Reyes said Santos and Lassiter had not previously shared with him their desire to join Gilas, until after the team's impressive Jones Cup run. He said he has yet to hear from them. Reyes, though, has repeatedly said he would love to have Pingris on the team for his energy and ability to defend multiple positions.
"No one has actually approached me, so I'm not going to be the one to approach them," he told Rappler. "The whole thing is always open… For me the starting point is the letter of commitment. It's as simple as signing it."
Not closing doors
Reyes said that as of the moment, the staff has no plans to tap anyone else, but he says that may change.
"We might [in the future]. This whole thing isn't a closed thing," he said, using Paul Lee as an example.
Reyes said his staff was thinking of inviting Lee before the PBA Finals, but when Lee got injured, they decided to let him recuperate instead.
But one thing is certain: Reyes only wants players who is willing to make sacrifices for the team, and consequently, for the country. He said he will not force anyone who doesn't want to play, to join the team.
Reyes also has no plans of approaching SMC at the moment to push for players who have yet to sign the commitment letter.
The stand of Reyes is a tough, but understandable one. When describing his team that took home the gold, Reyes said it is was the level of commitment of the boys that sealed the victory.
"When they signed their names to that letter, they were committing their entire selves," he told Rappler.
He said that beforehand, he told the players that they should be "prepared to sacrifice" and to "give something up," whether it be their vacation, rest time, or time with family. The sacrifice, he said, extended to the game, telling the boys they should also be prepared to sacrifice minutes and shot.
"I think everyone did it here," he said of Gilas in Taipei. "Some players hardly played and they didn't mind. They worked hard in practice."
He said that while the doors remain open for those previously invited, Reyes said the coaching staff will be fair in choosing those that will play for Gilas and that no one is assured of a spot.
Reyes said many of his current players performed surprisingly well, and that they will consider team chemistry and commitment in choosing the final line-up.
Chemistry and heart
In explaining the win, Reyes acknowledges that he may not have all the best players of the country on the team, but that their level of heart and chemistry has seen them through.
"It wasn't pretty at times but we never quit," he said. "The players just genuinely were playing for each other, they wouldn't allow the team to lose."
He said he was also pleasantly surprised by the team chemistry which he described as "fantastic," a bond they formed over jokes, after-practice conversations, trust building exercises, and even seemingly futile activities like trips to the night market, riding a taxi and making rookies do laundry duty.
He also praised the leadership of Gabe Norwood and LA Tenorio, who played the role of co-captains at the tournament.
Reyes admitted that the win itself, came as sort of a surprise.
"What can i say?," he said. "We weren't really thinking of winning this. The most important thing was to learn. But we still found a way to win."
Reyes and his staff are still in the midst of picking out the line-up for the FIBA-Asia Champions Cup in Japan, but said he will likely have the roster by Friday, August 31. - Rappler.com