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Nenad Vucinic to stick with 11-man Gilas roster for WCQ: 'We will go with what we have'

Ahead of his clash with his former team, Nenad Vucinic is settling for an 11-man Gilas lineup. FIBA (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA--Coach Nenad Vucinic is settling with 11 players for Gilas Pilipinas' campaign in the third window of the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers.

With only a short time to even find a player to shore up the national team's frontline due to Ange Kouame's partial ACL tear, Vucinic eventually opted to stick with Gilas' current roster.

“I think we will go with what we have,” Vucinic said.

Vucinic is keeping the 10 players who played a pair of tune-up games against South Korea last week, namely Rhenz Abando, RJ Abarrientos, SJ Belangel, Geo Chiu, LeBron Lopez, Will Navarro, Kevin Quiambao, Kiefer Ravena, Dwight Ramos, and Carl Tamayo.

Good thing for the Serbian mentor, Dave Ildefonso, who opted to stay home to recover from an ankle injury despite being called up too for the friendlies, has been cleared to join Gilas in the mid-year window, which includes a June 30 road game at New Zealand and a July 3 home game against India at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.

He has also named Ravena, the oldest in the lineup at 28, as the team captain for Gilas in this window.

“There are also other players that step up in the leadership department, guys like SJ (Belangel). Also, there are guys that are maybe not vocal but they lead by example, by commitment, [and] by trying to execute. So you got to have one leader, one that is responsible for what’s happening to the team, and for this month, it’s Kiefer,” Vucinic further said.

Despite this, Vucinic is aware that a small-ball Gilas lineup is up for a bigger task ahead as they take on the bigger Tall Blacks in Auckland but vowed to give their all.

“It’s gonna be a very difficult task obviously going to New Zealand with a limited number of big players but we intend to play hard and hopefully play well,” Vucinic, who previously coached the Kiwi squad, further said.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno

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