Philippine basketball officials have decided to send the Smart-Gilas team to compete in the FIBA-Asia Stankovic Cup on August 7 to 15 in Beirut, reversing an early plan to skip the event.
A possible fallout with FIBA and a likely fine also helped make the decision to join the tournament despite the general consensus that the Gilas team will be smothered by the opposition consisting of national teams gearing up for the Asian Games.
Though Gilas is likewise preparing for the Games, the lineup for the Stankovic Cup has been severely depleted with some players asking to skip the event while others were not qualified to play because of tournament rules.
Two local players, 7-footer Greg Slaughter and 6-foot-7 Rabah Al-Hussaini, have begged off from the tournament to catch up with their studies.
At the same time, naturalization candidate Marcus Douthit and Fil-Am Chris Lutz were not allowed to play in the tournament limited to members of national teams. Douthit and Lutz were disallowed since both have yet to secure their Philippine passports.
Despite these woes, Smart-Gilas team manager Frankie Lim said Gilas has committed to play after meeting Sunday with the coaching staff led by Serbian mentor Rajko Toroman.
According to Lim, if the national team would pullout from the competition, the Samahang Basketball ng Pilipinas (SBP) will be fined by FIBA-Asia because the Stankovic Cup is organized by the Asian basketball federation.
Lim said that the event will now serve as part of the national team’s preparation for the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China in November
“We would want to toughen the other players for the Asian Games,” said Lim.
Smart-Gilas will have 10 players with only one legitimate center in 6-foot-7 Jason Ballesteros.
The national team is again in the ‘Group of Death’ with host Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, while in Group A are Asian champion Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan, and Chinese Taipei.
Waylon Galvez, Manila Bulletin