Gilas Pilipinas got a big boost as Philippine Basketball Association stalwarts showed up to join the national pool that will compete in the fourth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
Leading the cast of professional stars who joined the pool in its first training session on Monday at the Meralco Gym were Calvin Oftana and Kevin Alas of NLEX and Jamie Malonzo of NorthPort.
They joined Gilas mainstays Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena, Dwight Ramos, Ray Parks, Kevin Quiambao, Carl Tamayo and LeBron Lopez in the training session supervised by Gilas head coach Chot Reyes with Barangay Ginebra San Miguel mentor Tim Cone and Josh Reyes serving as deputies.
The first day of training covered shooting drills with several variations and fast ball movement with Cone — a two-time PBA grand slam coach — providing inputs.
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas executive director Sonny Barrios also dropped by in the practice session to assure the players that the federation is rallying behind them in their bid to redeem the country’s pride following a string of heartaches in the international stage.
Barrios told Daily Tribune that the federation had already finalized the 24-man pool that will be bannered by National Basketball Association star Jordan Clarkson and National Basketball League campaigner Kai Sotto.
Clarkson will be arriving on Thursday while Sotto will be checking in tomorrow.
Tipped to join the pool are reigning PBA Most Valuable Player Scottie Thompson of Ginebra as well as teammates Japeth Aguilar and Arvin Tolentino.
Alas and Oftana were also included along with Robert Bolick and Malonzo of NorthPort.
Magnolia, which ended its campaign on Sunday following a loss to TNT Tropang Giga in Game 6 of their best-of-seven semifinal series, will be lending its big man Ian Sangalang and energetic playmaker Jio Jalalon.
Although San Miguel and Meralco have yet to determine who will take the last finals seat in a do-or-die Game 7 at press time, national team veterans June Mar Fajardo and CJ Perez will be called up from the Beermen side while Raymond Almazan, Allein Maliksi and Chris Newsome will be tapped from the Bolts.
Former top rookie and Terrafirma big man Adam Roosevelt was also included in the list after the International Federation recently cleared his eligibility to play as a local.
“Yes, Newsome, Thompson, Fajardo and Alas are all part of the pool,” Barrios said.
The Nationals will face Lebanon in Beirut on 25 August before facing Saudi Arabia in Pasay City on 29 August.