The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas expressed regret over the looming absence of veteran Japeth Aguilar in the sixth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
In a phone conversation with Daily Tribune, SBP executive director Sonny Barrios said that the possible absence of Aguilar is a major blow to Gilas Pilipinas when it battles Lebanon on 24 February and Jordan on 27 February at the Philippine Arena.
Aguilar’s stint for Gilas is in doubt after suffering a knee injury during Barangay Ginebra San Miguel’s 88-118 loss to Magnolia in the Philippine Basketball Association Governors’ Cup last week.
“It will be sad if he will not be there. He is the ‘kuya’ of Gilas as he is the oldest in the team with the most international stints,” said Barrios, referring to the 6-froot-9 forward who has been with the program when it was still being managed by Serbian Rajko Toroman.
“It will be a big loss without his presence.”
Barrios, however, stressed that Aguilar’s looming absence could pave the way for the emergence of other young stars like Mason Amos, Kevin Quiambao and Carl Tamayo.
His Ginebra teammate in naturalized player Justin Brownlee as well as six-time PBA Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo are also expected to step up top fill the gaping hole that Aguilar’s injury had created.
“They will be our veterans. Although this will be Justin’s first time on the national team, he’s a veteran as a player and we can’t say he’s new to this,” Barrios said.
“The kids like Mason Amos and Carl Tamayo should step up since Japeth will most likely not be here.”
“June Mar is a very solid player whether in the PBA or internationally because of his exposure and experience in different international leagues. We can rely on him as long as he stays healthy.”
Although the sixth window will hardly affect the Philippines’ World Cup stint, Barrios said the players – especially the young guns – should go all out since head coach Chot Reyes will use the event as part of the selection process and evaluation together with other events like the 32nd Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia in May.
“The evaluation is an ongoing process. What I’m trying to say is that even if that is the last qualifier, that will not dictate our final 12,” Barrios said.
“There is still a good part of the journey to be undertaken, meaning that we still have the Southeast Asian Games. We are looking to have training camps and maybe pocket tournaments abroad.”
“Not to mention the draw in April that will decide our opponents will also be part of the evaluation process because once you know your opponents, composing the lineup will be considered on who will you face. Right now, we don’t know who we will face.”