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MANILA, Philippines – Gilas Pilipinas’ bid to form the best possible team for the FIBA World Cup has gotten a clearer picture.
The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) on Tuesday, June 6, unveiled the 21-man pool from which the 12-man lineup will be selected for the global hoops showdown set to be hosted by the Philippines, Japan, and Indonesia.
Jordan Clarkson, Justin Brownlee, and Angelo Kouame will vie for the lone naturalized player spot as the national team ramps up its preparations with less than three months to go before the World Cup tips off on August 25.
Clarkson supposedly has the inside track for the position owing to his impressive body of work with the Utah Jazz in the NBA, but as head coach Chot Reyes said in the past, no one is a lock for the final roster.
Kai Sotto also headlines the pool featuring a mix of PBA stars and overseas Filipino imports amid concerns regarding his availability for the World Cup.
The 7-foot-3 Sotto, who last donned the national colors in the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers in November, is expected to miss the start of Gilas Pilipinas’ training camp as he pursues his NBA dream in the United States.
Gilas Pilipinas, though, does not lack size as it tapped 6-foot-10 AJ Edu, who last played for the University of Toledo in the US NCAA, 6-foot-10 June Mar Fajardo of San Miguel, and 6-foot-9 Japeth Aguilar of Barangay Ginebra.
Aguilar and Fajardo both look to see action in the World Cup for the third straight edition after representing the country in Spain in 2014 and in China in 2019.
Filipino standouts from the Japan B. League make up a huge chunk of the pool as the national team enlisted mainstays Dwight Ramos, Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena, Jordan Heading, Carl Tamayo, and Ray Parks.
Meanwhile, Rhenz Abando is the only Filipino import from the Korean Basketball League to crack the pool after a stellar campaign that saw him help the Anyang KGC win the championship.
Ginebra’s Scottie Thompson and Jamie Malonzo, TNT’s Roger Pogoy, Calvin Oftana, and Poy Erram, San Miguel’s CJ Perez, and Meralco’s Chris Newsome complete the pool.
Training camp begins on Wednesday, with Gilas Pilipinas scheduled to take a trip to Europe, where it will face teams from Finland, Estonia, and Lithuania in the next two months.
Bunched in Group A with Italy, Dominican Republic, and Angola, the Philippines will shoot for a top-two finish in order to reach the second round. – Rappler.com