If Smart Gilas coach Rajko Toroman and team manager Frankie Lim will have their way, the national team to the Guangzhou Asian Games might as well be an all-PBA squad.
After announcing that they want former PBA MVP Kelly Williams, Ranidel de Ocampo and Ryan Reyes of Talk ’N Text, Asi Taulava of Coke and Sol Mercado of Rain or Shine to beef up its team, Lim added the two-time MVP winner James Yap and San Miguel wingman Arwind Santos to his wish list.
Lim said they are considering all options to make the team more competitive for the quadrennial Games since they will be ranged against taller and more experienced teams, mostly from the Middle East powers.
Lim assured, however, that the collegiate stars who have been with the squad since it was formed last January will make up the core although many find this assertion a bit ludicrous considering the superiority of PBA players over the collegians.
Yap and Santos were mentioned as possible reinforcements after Toroman indicated that the team needed a shooter (Yap) and a wingman (Santos).
“We’ll still discuss it. We’re considering all our options,” Lim said. “But the composition of the team will depend on what we really need.”
The team got a taste of PBA talent when 6-foot-9 Taulava, the 35-year-old PBA veteran and a three-time national team member, suited up for Smart-Gilas and helped the team to a fourth place in the recently-concluded FIBA-Asia Stankovic Cup in Beirut, Lebanon.
That performance had been their best since the squad was formed some two years ago.
The Smart-Gilas team’s improvement has been slow and the tournament results woeful and many are wondering whether having a national team with mostly college standouts had been a good idea.
Though SBP and Smart had generously bankrolled the team, it probably is only a matter of time before the team’s patrons start weighing whether it’s all worth it.
But before PBA players are pressed into service, team and PBA board approval are needed.
Already in the national pool are amateurs Dylan Ababou, JV Casio, Jason Ballesteros, Aldrech Ramos, Chris Tiu, JR Cawaling, Greg Slaughter, Mark Barroca, Mac Baracael, Japeth Aguilar, and Fil-Am Marcio Lassiter.
American Marcus Douthit, a 6-foot-10 center who is a candidate for naturalization, and Fil-Am guard Chris Lutz are also part of the pool.
However, Douthit and Lassiter must secure first their Philippine passports before the final deadline of submission of names on September 15 imposed by the organizing committee of the Asian Games, which is set November 12 to 27.
Waylon Galvez, Manila Bulletin