The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) has decided that it would send an all-cadet Gilas Pilipinas squad to the upcoming Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Serbia on June 29 to July 4.
With no PBA players joining the group, players picked during the 2019 special Gilas draft would make up the core of this young crew that will fly to Belgrade in the hopes of snagging a berth in the Tokyo Olympics. A scheduling conflict with the PBA led the SBP to decide that it would field in the cadet team.
“If you take a look at it, if we want to start training even as early as this month and the PBA will start its conference this season in April and this will go all the way to July 4 which is the last day of the OQT, it will completely descale the calendar of the PBA,” explained SBP president Al Panlilio in a press conference that came after the PBA planning session on Wednesday.
One player that Cebuanos are familiar with—Rey Anthony Suerte—is ready to take on the challenge. After getting picked in the special draft back in 2019, the former two-time Cesafi MVP has been a full-time Gilas player who finally got his chance to play during the second leg of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers where he averaged 6.5 points, two rebounds and 2.5 assists.
“I'm so happy nga kami mga Cadets ang makig-compete for the Olympic Qualifier. Opportunity na ni namo para mapakita among mga nakat-onan inside in the Gilas program and to apply it in the real game,” said the 6-foot-4 wingman who previously played at the University of the Visayas.
“At the same time, para sa akong kaugalingon kay medyo kabado kay tungod di lalim among ma kontra hilabi na ang Serbian National Team and South Korea National Team.”
Fellow special draftees Isaac Go, Mike and Matt Nieto and Allyn Bulanadi along with four more special draftees from this year’s Gilas Draft, namely Jaydee Tungcab, William Navarro, Jordan Heading and Tzaddy Rangel will join Suerte on the Gilas team.
7-foot-2 center Kai Sotto and potential naturalized player Ange Kouame are also being groomed to join the team.
Suerte says that regardless of whoever makes the final cut, the country can rest assured that the Gilas Pilipinas will give it their all.
“Aduna na mi chemistry, di man tuod perfect pero ginapaningkamotan namo nga magtinabangay always . Mu-compete lang jud mi, ma naa or wala may PBA players ang squad namo karon. Maningkamot lang gihapon and also salig jud mi sa matag usa,” added Suerte. (JNP)