By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
PRESENTED with the opportunity by the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) to have the national team participate in the league’s next tournament as a guest team, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) said it is open to the idea and will discuss the matter in the coming days.
“We’re definitely open to the idea of playing in the PBA,” said SBP President Alfredo “Al” S. Panlilio in a statement as they welcomed the offer of the local pro hoops league to accommodate Gilas Pilipinas in the PBA.
In a special meeting between officials of the league and SBP on Monday, among the matters tackled was Gilas’ possible participation in a regular PBA tournament.
League officials said the PBA is open to welcoming the national team if Gilas has no scheduled competition.
The nationals can suit up as early as the Philippine Cup, which is targeted to open in April.
Mr. Panlilio said the PBA offer is much appreciated, seeing it as an added boost to the national team’s preparation for international competitions, including the 2023 International Basketball Federation (FIBA) World Cup where the country is one of the hosts.
But the SBP president, who is also the board representative of the Meralco Bolts in the PBA, said they will reserve decision on it to a later date as they will focus first on more pressing matters, particularly Gilas’ campaign this month in the third and final window of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers in Doha, Qatar.
“Once the team (Gilas) arrives from Doha, we will sit down with the PBA to discuss the matter further. Right now, the focus of Gilas Pilipinas program director Tab Baldwin, together with his coaching staff, is preparing our team for the upcoming games against South Korea and Indonesia,” said Mr. Panlilio, referring to the scheduled matches of the Philippines in Group A of the window from Feb. 18 to 22.
The team of cadet and PBA players are set to leave for Doha this weekend off a training “bubble” at the INSPIRE Sports Academy in Laguna.
As a guest team, Gilas is to be bannered by the special draft players selected for the national team in 2019, namely: Isaac Go (Terrafirma), Rey Suerte (Blackwater), Matt Nieto (NLEX), Allyn Bulanadi (Alaska), and Mike Nieto (Rain or Shine).
They are to be joined by the players selected in another special Gilas draft this year, which was also discussed in the special meeting.
The team could also be shored up by collegiate standouts, who have to get clearance from regulators first to be able to participate in the professional tournament.
As an added incentive, Gilas is eligible to win a PBA title even if it is a guest team.
Gilas’ participation in the PBA if ever is not the first time that such is happening.
Back in the 1980s, the national team backed by Northern Consolidated Cement competed in the PBA and even won a title — the 1985 PBA Reinforced Conference.
Early iterations of Gilas Pilipinas also paraded their wares in the PBA.
In the event SBP declined the offer, however, the PBA board asked the basketball federation to allow all special draftees to play for their respective mother teams in the PBA if Gilas has no scheduled training camps or competitions.