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Edu arrives; Gilas shape up

Photo courtesy of AJ Edu/Instagram

AJ Edu is tipped to hit the ground running when he joins the Gilas Pilipinas training on 7 June.

Gilas Pilipinas team manager Butch Antonio made the confirmation to Daily Tribune, saying that the Filipino-Cypriot forward is set to arrive at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport today from a flight from Sydney, Australia.

After representing the country in the FIBA 3×3 U18 World Cup in 2017 and FIBA U18 Asian Championships in 2018, the 6-foot-10 Edu faces a huge challenge as he makes his debut in the seniors ranks after suffering multiple knee injuries in 2019.

Gilas coach Chot Reyes, however, refused to speculate on Edu’s condition, but assured that he will do his best to gain a slot in the team that will see action in the FIBA Basketball World Cup that the country will host from 25 August to 10 September.

“It remains to be seen,” Reyes said in a message when asked about Edu’s health status and his value to Gilas Pilipinas.

While Edu will be an early bird, other abroad-based stars like Kai Sotto, Dwight Ramos, Ray Parks and Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena have yet to confirm their arrival.

But Reyes will not have a shortage of talent as he can tap the core of the recently-crowned Southeast Asian Games champion bannered by naturalized player Justin Brownlee, Chris Newsome Marcio Lassiter, CJ Perez and Arvin Tolentino with college players Mason Amos and Jerom Lastimosa.

Brownlee, for one, can join the Gilas training pending the arrival of National Basketball Association star Jordan Clarkson, who will be joining the squad six weeks before the World Cup.

On the other hand, although Michael Phillips and Brandon Ganuelas-Rosser expressed their willingness to see action, they are not eligible to play as local players in FIBA-sanctioned events.

Also set to be part of the Gilas training are Philippine Basketball Association standouts June Mar Fajardo, Japeth Aguilar, Roger Pogoy, Jamie Malonzo and Scottie Thompson.

Fajardo, a six-time PBA Most Valuable Player, was sidelined by a medial collateral ligament injury, but has now started working out with San Miguel Beer while Aguilar has recovered from a knee injury.

Pogoy is still recovering since he fractured his pinky during the PBA Governors’ Cup best-of-seven championship series, but likely to rejoin the Gilas team anytime soon while Malonzo and Thompson are set to make their comebacks after begging off from participating in the SEA Games due to personal reasons.

Members of the Gilas team in the SEA Games, including the coaching staff, took a two-week break, to allow them some recovery time before resuming with their uninterrupted workouts for the next three months for the World Cup.

The tough training sessions include a camp in Lithuania and the Baltic region, a pocket tournament in Estonia where it plays the Estonian national team and Finland and a possible stopover in Latvia.

In Lithuania, Reyes will be looking to get a tune up game with the under-21 squad of Lithuania, which will bring up to speed the conditioning of his pool members.

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