MANILA, Philippines – Better late than never.
Though he could not make a decision over a week ago, Gilas Pilipinas head coach Tab Baldwin said he is now leaning toward re-inserting veteran forward Marc Pingris back into the pool after all.
Pingris, 33, will be coming in late due to a long scheduled trip to France to visit his family. He will be back in the country on Wednesday, August 12.
“We’re certainly leaning towards Ping,” Baldwin said late Monday night, August 10 after team practice.
“We’re going to have some discussions with him and make sure he’s in the right frame of mind to come in here because he’s coming in late. We all know Ping and we have a lot of confidence in him so it looks like that’s going to happen. We’re leaning in that direction, certainly.”
Baldwin set the mindset of not expecting hustle guy Pingris at all for Gilas, emphasizing that he will assess upon Pingris’ return whether or not the team still needs him based on how far they’ve progressed.
But after Gilas’ first full week of practice – with many a pair of shaky legs, much learning to be done, and heightened concern over fatigue and dwindling personnel – Baldwin cannot deny the need for the Star Hotshots workhorse.
“We’re thinking very seriously about it and you can see the toll we’re taking on Asi Taulava and Sonny Thoss,” Baldwin explained.
“They’re really the only big men we have here and they’re really expending an awful lot of energy. They don’t get much rest during practice. So we’re going to need some reinforcements.”
Pingris’ return is a welcome development for a Gilas pool hit with a series of unfortunate injuries and player unavailability.
Leading the injured pack is naturalized center Andray Blatche who is trying to train through an undetermined discomforting injury that, according to Baldwin, is either in the upper groin or lower stomach area. (READ: Blatche sustains injury in Gilas practice)
Center June Mar Fajardo also begged off due to plantar fasciitis injury in both feet. Forward Kelly Williams is likewise out after suffering an MCL injury as he slipped on a wet spot on the court last week.
Ranidel de Ocampo is still not participating in training due to a hamstring injury that’s still hurting him.
Guard LA Tenorio took a leave of absence from the team citing fatigue and health reasons. Baldwin said the door remains open for Tenorio in the event he changes his mind and Gilas still needs him.
The thinning pool forced Baldwin to call up retired Jimmy Alapag to serve as practice player. Baldwin has declared there is a possibility the veteran guard might see action once more, and Alapag said he would be more than willing to make one more Gilas run.
The national team is set to compete for the gold and an Olympics berth at the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship this September in Changsha, Hunan, China. Full practices for the national team began August 3. – Rappler.com
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