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'Hybrid' Gilas Men likely for FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers opener

The Gilas Cadets are set to get a quick acid test as they are likely to make the pool for the February window of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers. Nikki Collantes (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

QUEZON CITY--The SBP looms to parade a mix of PBA veterans and the Gilas Cadets pool for its roster for the first window of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers next month. SBP president Al Panlilio confirmed on Saturday that it will likely go that route.

"We actually wanted to start the program na," Panlilio, the governor of Meralco in the league, said after the press conference for the PBA Governors' Cup at Sambokojin Restaurant in Eastwood as he explained why the SBP is going the "hybrid" route.

He pertained to grooming the Gilas Cadets for the 2023 FIBA World Cup that the Philippines will host along with Indonesia and Japan.

The SBP rebuilt the Gilas Cadets program by recruiting five players, namely Isaac Go, Rey Suerte, Allyn Bulanadi, and twin brothers Matt and Mike Nieto, last month.

The said ballers all declared for the PBA Draft also last December, and they were placed in a special Gilas Cadets that saw Go selected first overall by Columbian, Suerte picked second by Blackwater, Matt Nieto taken third overall by NLEX, Bulanadi drafted fourth overall by Alaska, and Mike Nieto chosen fifth overall by Rain Or Shine. They will stay with Gilas Cadets until they will be released to their respective mother teams.

[Related Story: Isaac Go number 1 in special Gilas Men draft]

Just as the new year ushered in, the SBP announced two additions to the pool, former Ateneo star Thirdy Ravena and former UP standout Jaydee Tungcab.

It can be noted that Matt Nieto, Go, and Ravena were all part of a previous Gilas Cadets pool called "23 for '23" formed by former Gilas Men coach Chot Reyes.

Panlilio then added that he wanted to ease some pressure from the PBA especially that the new FIBA World Cup and FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers format has taken a toll in the league's schedule.

"This is our way of building up the PBA and at the same time, Gilas," he further said.

With the PBA reserving one or two weeks off for the qualifier windows, the 43rd season, which started late 2017, went almost the full length of 2018, while the current season, which started exactly a year ago this month, will only finish as early as the middle of January especially that the league also took two weeks off due to the SEA Games and two more due to the Christmas season.

"From a Meralco governor position in the PBA board, nakita ko yung disruption na nangyari sa PBA--the sacrifice the PBA has to do to adjust to the World Cup and the SEA Games schedules. Ngayon lang kayo nakakita ng third conference finals na January the other year. Nai-impact din talaga ang PBA," Panlilio rued.

He, however, thanked the league for the adjustment it had to made just to give Gilas Men the time, albeit short, to practice together as a team.

"They've been very helpful, and I'm grateful for that. They're very committed to the Gilas program," Panlilio commended the PBA.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno