Return to original Gilas program looming as top amateur guns eyed

Slowly but surely, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas is gathering all the key pieces for the revival of its original Gilas program.

Several sources recently disclosed to FOX Sports that the country’s governing cage body has started to take the initial steps in its bid to send an all-amateur Philippine squad to the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup in China, with the finest amateur and collegiate cagers ready to get on board.

One source, who is privy to the development but spoke on the condition of anonymity, bared the SBP has already laid out its lofty plans to Gilas cadets Kiefer Ravena, Kevin Ferrer and Mac Belo, who have been religiously attending Gilas Pilipinas’ training session under coach Tab Baldwin every Monday.

Read: The Future: Picking possible Gilas Cadets wingmen

Other collegiate standouts, including Belo’s FEU teammates Mike Tolomia, Roger Pogoy and Russel Escoto, were already in talks with top SBP officials for the Gilas gig.

Even former NU guard Gelo Alolino was also approached by SBP and a closed-door meeting will be held some time this week, said another source.

SBP is also eyeing to include Arellano heady playmaker Jiovani Jalalon and several La Salle standouts, led by former Sinag Pilipinas stalwart Prince Rivero, for the Gilas program, which initially produced the likes of pro league stars Marcio Lassiter, JVee Casio, Chris Tiu, and Greg Slaughter, with Serbian mentor Rajko Toroman calling the shots from 2009 to 2012.

It is not clear, however, if SBP plans to tap the services of former Green Archers center Arnold Van Opstal as the 6-foot-7 Fil-German reportedly faces an issue over his passport.

Read: The Future: Picking possible Gilas Cadets point guards

Since Baldwin is focused mainly on supervising the once-a-week training of Gilas Pilipinas’ 17-man pool for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Manila from July 5-10, the SBP has refused to talk about its recent moves in building what would serve as the core of non-pro Gilas team for the China joust.

Another source said top SBP officials initially plan to sit down with their pro league counterparts, led by commissioner Chito Narvasa to discuss their bold move about the future PH cage team.

But SBP remains wary since most of its targeted amateur players are considered as first-rounders for the PBA Rookie Draft later this year, a scenario that might prevent several PBA team officials from giving their approval.

“Malalagas halos ‘yung mga pwedeng maging top picks sa Draft kaya baka mag-alangan ang PBA kung papayag sila sa plano ng SBP,” said the source. “May pagkakataon ang mahihinang teams na magpalakas thru the draft. Kaso magiging malabo ‘yun kung sakaling hindi aakyat ang tulad nila Kiefer at Belo.”

Read: Road to Rio: Gilas plans to play Italy ahead of Olympic qualifiers

SBP is strongly considering to form an all-amateur Gilas team since the new World Cup qualification system will feature two rounds of continental qualifying tournaments which will be held over two years using a home-and-away format.

“‘Yung bagong format ang main concern ng SBP kaya gusto talaga nilang ibalik ‘yung dating Gilas program. Hindi na kasi nila kailanganin pang abalahin ‘yung mga pro teams kung magkataong may qualifying match during the PBA season,” said the source. — By Jerome Lagunzad

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