This early, there are plans to inlcude younger players in the Gilas Pilipinas squad after it reclaimed supremacy in the Southeast Asian Games.
No less than head coach Chot Reyes broached up the idea of deploying younger players or those who are not seeing action in the Philippine Basketball Association to the regional competition.
He also proposed having a new mentor call the shots after announcing his retirement from coaching in the SEA Games.
While the next edition of the Games will happen two years from now and focus is still on the bigger tasks ahead — the FIBA Basketball World Cup and the 19th Asian Games — it will be a good idea to come up with suggestions, especially now that the composition of Gilas Pilipinas in the biennial meet is leaning on fielding younger players.
Even Philippine Olympic Committee president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino and Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Al Panlilo had spoken to support the idea of sending amateur stars to the biennial meet.
This early, Jerom Lastimosa, Michael Phillips and Mason Amos — the non-PBA players who saw action in the previous biennial meet — are strong candidates as they are expected to be more matured by the time the Thais host the next SEA Games in 2025.
It’s hard to guess who the other players would be since a lot could happen two years from now, but perhaps the SBP can kick things off by naming the new head coach after the Asian Games.
One name stands out as the most logical choice to coach the new-look Gilas team — Jong Uichico.
No one has served the national team longer than Uichico, a member of the gold medal-winning national youth squad in 1982 in Manila and became part of the Northern Consolidated Cement-backed national team program in the 1980s.
In fact, when Uicho embarked on professional coaching, he became an understudy of elite coaches like Norman Black and Ron Jacobs.
Uichico assisted Black at San Miguel Beer as well as in the national team in the Hiroshima Asian Games in 1994.
When Jacobs took over as head coach for the Busan Asian Games in 2002, Uichico served as one of the assistant coaches.
Uichico eventually took the cudgels when the American mentor suffered a stroke that ended his coaching career.
In between serving the national team, Uichico was also one of the most successful coaches in the PBA with nine titles after calling the shots for San Miguel, Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and TNT Tropang Giga.
Still, Uichico takes pride in serving the country from being an assistant to Reyes in 2005 to its return to the World Cup in 2014 up to the time Gilas reclaimed the SEA Games throne two weeks ago.
He also assisted Tab Baldwin and Tim Cone when they handled the Philippine squad.
In the SEA Games, he had opportunities to lead Gilas Cadets led by future professional stars Kiefer Ravena and Kevin Alas in 2013 and Christian Standhardinger, Baser Amer, Troy Rosario, Ray Parks and Kobe Paras in 2017 to gold medals.
A serious student of the game, Uichico is very much hands-on in teaching the fundamentals from the professional down to the grassroots level.
He is also very much involved in conducting coaching clinics all over the country as head of the Basketball Coaches Commission and SBP’s technical group of referees.
The good thing is that Uichico isn’t involved in any professional or collegiate team at the moment, allowing him to handle Gilas’ SEA Games team on a full-time basis.
It might be too early to choose now, but as far as opportunity, availability and capability is concerned, then Uichico is the perfect man for the coaching job in the SEA Games.