Guard Matt Nieto and wingman Dave Ildefonso will be sidelined for the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers in Clark and the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Serbia after they suffered different injuries.
The two players were not able to make it back to the Gilas Pilipinas training camp inside the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna with a broken hand, that Gilas men’s program director Tab Baldwin says will keep him out of action for the next two months.
Ildefonso, on the other hand, has a deep bone bruise that needs rest and rehabilitation to heal. Baldwin added that Ildefonso would return to the training pool next month.
Nieto injured his hand on a freak accident as it was caught on a teammates jersey. He initially thought he only needed rest but it became apparent that the injury was more serious
“(Losing Matt) created a great leadership void in the team and it’s very difficult to fill,” Baldwin said.
“Matt is not just a vocal leader, he’s not just a tough guy, we really get a lot of our competitiveness as a team from him. He’s a fierce competitor who hates to lose and that’s contagious in a team environment. We have other players who are competitive but they don’t have quite the drive and they don’t have the contagious nature that Matt has,” added Baldwin.
The two players were part of the Gilas squad that competed in the second window back in November.
“We miss both of them. We miss their talent and experience. We miss the fact that they give us chemistry with all the other players,” said Baldwin.
“Fortunately, there aren’t more injuries. In today’s world, after these guys sat out much of 2020 and didn’t get a lot of basketball, we’re pretty fortunate we didn’t get more injuries. Knock on wood there wouldn’t be any more.”
Baldwin said that he is expecting the entire team to step up in the absence of Nieto who provided such leadership.
“It’s going to have to be leadership by committee. I don’t think there’s anyone who could really step into that role in the same way that Matt did,” he said.
“Certainly we still have his brother Mike here, who’s a vocal leader and who creates a lot of positive culture for us but on the court it’s not the same when Matt is there with the ball on his hand.” (JNP)