MANILA, Philippines – Following Gilas Pilipinas’ embarrassing silver-medal finish at the Southeast Asian Games, embattled head coach Chot Reyes is back to work and has moved on to prepare for other national team events like the FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers and the FIBA Asia Cup this July.
As PBA action returns on June 5, Reyes said he looks to utilize UAAP and NCAA stars for the upcoming FIBA windows.
“We wanted to really have the opportunity to expose Carl Tamayo, SJ Belangel, Dave Ildefonso, even guys like James Spencer of UP, Justine Baltazar. We really want to be able to expose them to higher level Asian competition,” Reyes said in an interview on Play It Right TV on Wednesday, May 25.
“And in view, it’s going to prepare them for 2023, for the World Cup, so that’s the plan.”
Tamayo, the newly minted UAAP Rookie of the Year and Mythical Five member, had himself an outstanding seniors debut season for the UP Fighting Maroons, capped by a historic title win alongside Spencer over Ildefonso’s Ateneo Blue Eagles.
Ildefonso, meanwhile, emerged as one of former Gilas coach Tab Baldwin’s key cogs for the well-oiled Ateneo machine after two years starring for the NU Bulldogs.
Teaming up with Belangel and naturalized Filipino Ange Kouame – both Gilas stalwarts as well – the 22-year-old second-generation star helped Ateneo reach its fifth straight finals appearance before falling short against UP.
Baltazar, who recently signed with the Japan B. League’s Hiroshima Dragonflies, can also be counted on to flex his all-around game for the national team until his new team needs him for the next season.
Although Reyes did not mention any NCAA stalwarts, Season 97 rookie-MVP Rhenz Abando of Letran and former UP big man Will Gozum of CSB are interesting options, and are the only remaining Mythical Five members this season who have not been drafted to the PBA.
Under Baldwin, Gilas found great success with all-amateur or non-PBA lineups featuring the likes of Tamayo, Belangel, and Baltazar.
Reyes now has a golden opportunity to endear himself back to the national team’s rabid fan base by racking up much-needed wins with the country’s 2023 World Cup hosting fast approaching. – Rappler.com