Smart Gilas is hoping an old guard would fill the gaping hole at its center.
With the Fiba-Asia Stankovic Cup barely a week away, the national pool has yet to assemble a competitive lineup because of the inavailability of its young slotmen, and officials are hoping veteran Asi Taulava would be allowed by the pro league to suit up for the country in the tournament slated from August 7 to 15 in Beirut.
Although a little long in the tooth, Taulava is still considered one of the country’s premier centers and has had valuable experiences in high-level international competition, which could prove vital for the young squad.
There were questions as to whether it would be reasonable for the country to send a team to the tough tournament with the absence of key big men. Naturalization candidate Marcus Douthit and Filipino-American Chris Lutz have yet to secure Filipino passports, while Greg Slaughter and Rabeh Al-Hussaini are skipping the event to complete school requirements.
That leaves six-foot-seven Jason Ballesteros as the legitimate big man for Smart Gilas, which also includes Mark Barroca, JV Casio, RJ Jazul, Chris Tiu, Marcio Lassiter, Rey Guevarra and Mark Baracael.
“I think we have enough players. We can form a 12-man roster,” team manager Frankie Lim told the BusinessMirror on Monday.
Toroman said he has still 10 players in his team, but he is hoping Coca-Cola would allow Taulava, who had been joining Gilas practice sessions recently, to join them in Lebanon. The Tigers failed to make it deep into the playoffs of the Fiesta Conference.
“I don’t see any conflict with the schedule,” said Toroman.
“I think if Tualava will be able to play for us, we can be a lot more competitive because the competition there is very high,” he added.
Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) commissioner Sonny Barrios said the league has yet to receive a formal request from the national pool.
“We can’t tell right now. First, they have to formalize the request to the PBA. Second, Coca-Cola and the PBA board has to approve it. At my level as commissioner, it cannot be done,” Barrios said.
Lim said the Philippines can send a full team in the competition although Slaughter, the six-foot-11 project, is doubtful. The team will leave for Lebanon on Friday morning.
The Philippines is bracketed in Group B along with defending champion Jordan, host Lebanon, Qatar and Syria. Reigning Fiba-Asia champion Iran leads Group A that also includes Iraq, Japan, Kazakhstan and Chinese Taipei.
The Filipino dribblers face the Lebanese in the opening day on August 7, then meet Syria the following day. Smart Gilas then battles Jordan on August 10 and squares off against Qatar on August 11.
Joel Orellana, Business Mirror