There will be a scramble for regular slots in the Smart Gilas Pilipinas five lineup if the Philippine Basketball Association approves a request by RP coach Rajko Toroman for more reinforcements for the coming Asian Games campaign.
And the prospect of getting bumped off does not sit well with some of the players who have been recruited almost two years ago when the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas took over from the PBA the responsibility of forming a national five that will try to bring the country back to the Olympics in 2012.
Assured of the services of former PBA MVP Kelly Williams, Toroman also wants to tap guards Ryan Reyes of Talk ‘N Text and Solomon Mercado of Rain or Shine and either Asi Taulava of Coca-Cola or Sonny Thoss of Alaska.
Toroman said Taulava or Thoss may fill the gap in the paint if naturalization candidate Marcus Douthit fails to secure his citizenship papers in time for the 16th Asiad.
“When the PBA players come in, our playing minutes will be a concern,” said a discontented Gilas player who refused to be identified.
JV Casio, a consistent off-the-bench playmaker for Smart Gilas, isn’t quite sure how the inclusion of the PBA stars will affect the rotation, but the former De La Salle star is determined to protect his slot.
“I have to play harder, fight for my slot and prove that I belong to the national team,” said the 23-year-old Casio.
“It’s natural for other players to feel bad about it. But if the move is for the good of the national team, I’m definitely for it,” he added.
The RP five finished fourth in the recently concluded William Jones Cup in Taiwan behind the national teams of champion Iran, Lebanon and Japan.
The 6-foot-7 Williams, who could provide Toroman with more height and deft at power forward, is expected to join the Nationals after the PBA Fiesta Conference. Toroman has been utilizing the 6-foot-3 Mac Baracael as his prime option in that position.
Next stop for Smart Gilas is the Fiba Asia Stankovic Cup in Beirut on Aug. 7-15.
Aside from Casio and Baracael, the other original RP team members are Chris Tiu, Mark Barroca, Greg Slaughter, Japeth Aguilar, Jason Ballesteros, Dylan Ababou, Rey Guevarra, RJ Jazul, JR Cawaling and Aldrech Ramos.
Rabeh Al-Hussaini, Fil-foreign players Marcio Lasitter and Chris Lutz and Douthit were included in the program this year.
Philippine Daily Inquirer