Gilas yet to decide on final roster for World Cup qualifiers

MANILA, Philippines – Gilas Pilipinas has yet to decide on the final roster it will send to the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers, as naturalized player Andray Blatche will only be arriving Saturday evening, November 18, said head coach Chot Reyes.

Blatche was supposed to arrive in the Philippines last Sunday, November 12, but was not allowed by his Chinese Basketball Association team, Xinjian Flying Tigers. Reyes said the 31-year-old had to play for the Tigers' final two games last November 15 and 17.

"That's one of the main reasons why we're not releasing any lineup. Unless Andray is actually here then we cannot make any final pronouncements," said the longtime national team tactician.

Aside from Blatche, the other members of the 16-man pool that will be trimmed to 12 are June Mar Fajardo, Gabe Norwood, Japeth Aguilar, Raymond Almazan, Carl Bryan Cruz, Kiefer Ravena, Kevin Alas, Matthew Wright, Roger Pogoy, Mac Belo, Troy Rosario, Allein Maliksi, Terrence Romeo, Calvin Abueva, and Jayson Castro.

According to Reyes, Castro suffered from back spasms but is expected to return to practice Sunday, November 19, while Romeo is still not 100% healthy. Abueva, on the other hand, has fever.

"Questions on the lineup, we really don’t know yet at this point, we will make the final lineup the night before the deadline is due," Reyes added.

If Blatche fails to arrive in the Philippines soon or if Gilas decides not to put him in the final lineup, Reyes said that his wards are ready to go all-Filipino.

"While it's good to have a naturalized player, we have to prepare as if we don't have a naturalized player. If we have to go through the game against Japan with all Filipinos, then so be it."

Gilas will be leaving for Japan on Tuesday, November 21, to face the home team on Friday, November 24, at the Komazawa Olympic Park Gymnasium before returning home to battle it out against Chinese Taipei on Monday, November 27, at the Araneta Coliseum. –

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.