By Kyle Encarnacion
MANILA — The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) on Thursday officially announced that Joseph “Jong” Uichico is back in harness as mentor for a young and inexperienced Gilas Pilipinas that will see action in the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers slated this November 26 to 30 in Manama, Bahrain.
Uichico, who is also the SBP Coaches Commission head, will lead a 16-man Gilas training pool that will include 2019 PBA-Gilas special draftees Allyn Bulanadi, Rey Suerte, Isaac Go, and twin brothers Matt and Mike Nieto.
“It is an adjustment for me. Definitely a new challenge with this young and inexperience guys. But we believe in these guys and hopeful that we get that needed chemistry. Masisipag silang lahat at hindi matatawaran ang kanilang puso. Hopefully, makaadjust kami agad lahat,” said Uichico.
Also included in the pool are La Salle center Justin Baltazar, University of the Philippines’ Jaydee Tungcab, Kobe Paras, and brothers Javi Gomez de Liaño and Juan Gomez de Liaño.
Completing the pool are NCAA MVP Calvin Oftana, Kevin Cariño, Will Navarro, Dwight Ramos, Dave Ildefonso and candidate for naturalization Angelo Kouame.
Meanwhile, SBP president Al Panlilio personally thanked sports patron Manuel V. Pangilinan and Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Chairman William “Butch” Ramirez for personally taking their time out to help the squad their need permits and approval to train and to fly to Bahrain.
Panlilio said they got the go signal from chief implementer of the National Action Plan Against Covid-19, Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr., and deputy chief implementer, Undersecretary Vince Dizon, to start the Gilas’ training for the November window of the Asia Cup Qualifiers.
“There is a ruling that did not allow Filipinos to fly to Bahrain because of health and safety issues. But MVP asked Sec. Carlito Galvez and Asec Vince Dizon for reconsideration from IATF. The government granted but told us to just make sure that all protocols are followed,” said Panlilio.
“Also, we would like to thank PSC Chairman William “Butch” Ramirez for all the support given to us and helping us with assuring the government of our effort for the country,” Panlilio added.
Gilas is holding its training bubble at the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna under strict health protocols.
The squad is set to leave for Bahrain on Sunday, November 22. (AI/MTVN)