Philippine basketball

Chot explains non-inclusion of Banal, Lopez in Gilas lineups

Delfin Dioquino
Chot explains non-inclusion of Banal, Lopez in Gilas lineups

FUTURE. Francis 'LeBron' Lopez remains a part of Gilas Pilipinas' plans, says coach Chot Reyes.


Gab Banal and Francis 'LeBron' Lopez end up as the only two players who did not crack the 12-man lineup in Gilas Pilipinas' two games in the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers

MANILA, Philippines – Francis “LeBron” Lopez and Gab Banal failed to make the cut as the plan to field everyone from Gilas Pilipinas’ 15-man pool got derailed after South Korea pulled out from the Philippines’ hosting of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.

Banal and Lopez were the only two players who did not crack the 12-man lineup in Gilas’ two games – an 88-64 win over India and a 63-88 loss to New Zealand.

National team head coach Chot Reyes initially wanted to play all 15 players for the February window, but their original four-game schedule got reduced to just two matches as Korea withdrew due to a positive COVID-19 test.

Explaining his roster choice, Reyes said he tapped Banal for the sole purpose of being a backup for TNT teammate Roger Pogoy, who just recovered from a calf injury.

“In case Roger could not go, Gab was a backup. And that was made very clear to him when we included him in the 15-man lineup,” Reyes said.

Pogoy saw action in both games, averaging 8 points and 3 rebounds in 16 minutes of action.

It was a different case for Lopez, the youngest player in the team at 18 years old.

While Lopez managed to debut for the national team in the Asia Cup Qualifiers last year when Tab Baldwin still held the coaching reins, Reyes said the high-flying teenager fell behind in learning the system after he joined the squad only less than two weeks before the Asian Qualifiers.

“He is very far from the scheme of things yet. He is still very far from understanding our offense, our defense, and that was the reason for those decisions,” Reyes said.

Reyes, though, assured Lopez that he remains part of Gilas’ plans.

“But in the future, like I told LeBron, he is going to get more chances with this team, but he has to be more present. He has to be in the training camps, the practices, like all these other guys.”

Sitting at second place in Group A with a 1-1 record, Gilas will return to Asian Qualifiers action in the June-July window. –

Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.