Gilas Pilipinas head coach Chot Reyes believes that Mason Amos will soon trek the path taken by Japeth Aguilar when he was starting in the national team program.
In a conversation with Daily Tribune, Reyes stressed that he sees a lot of potential on the 6-foot-7 Amos, prompting him to believe that he will be the next Gilas cornerstone just like what happened to Aguilar when he joined the program in 2009.
Since becoming an integral part of Gilas, Aguilar had blossomed from a high-flying forward into a seasoned veteran who campaigned in various international competitions, including the FIBA Basketball World Cup in 2014 and 2019 in Spain and China, respectively.
More than that, Aguilar now has eight Philippine Basketball Association titles with Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and was named as the Finals Most Valuable Player in the Governors’ Cup in 2019.
“There was a time that Japeth was Mason being the youngest player on the team,” Reyes said, referring to the Filipino-Australian forward who is set to see action for Ateneo de Manila University.
“We have to remember that aside from the preparing for the World Cup, we’re also building a program and that’s the reason why we’re bringing in young players to join the holdovers in Gilas.”
With Aguilar sidelined by a knee injury, Poy Erram undergoing knee operation and 7-foot-2 Kai Sotto opting to sit out, Gilas Pilipinas will need a lot of help at the shaded lanes in the sixth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
The squad is so depleted that Reyes had no choice but to recall an old hand in 41-year-old Kelly Williams to help patrol the paint against Lebanon on 24 February and Jordan on 27 February at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan.
Aside from Amos and Williams, other big men who are disputing for spots in the final roster are six-time PBA Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo as well as collegiate stars Kevin Quiambao, Carl Tamayo and Raymond Almazan.
“You saw how depleted our front court is. That’s really a cause of concern. We’ve lost our two best rim protectors, Japeth and Kai. That’s something we didn’t expect. But we’ll see what we can come up with and how we can compensate,” Reyes said.
“I’ve heard that Kai is opting out in this window. That’s something we’ve already taken into consideration, that we’re not going to have Japeth and Kai. It’s really a big blow in our ability to defend.”
The absence of ring protectors had certainly opened up the doors for Amos — a stretch big whose size can certainly provide additional ceiling for Gilas.
“Is he going to make the line up? It’s a long shot, but just the experience of being here is certainly worth it,” he added.
Reyes said the time Amos spent working out with the best players in the country will certainly boost his stock as he heads for Season 86 of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines.
“He’s not going to improve more if he’s going to compete against players his age, that’s the reason why we’re inviting him to be a part of the men’s team and so far, he’s been doing well in practice. Remember, he’s only 18,” Reyes said.