Having enough players at its disposal is a good problem for Gilas Pilipinas.
At the restart of Gilas’ training session at the Meralco Gym on Thursday, a total of 16 players showed up.
The number was enough to allow the national team aspirants to do live drills where teams were divided into three.
Three players had just rejoined the Gilas training pool — Ray Parks, Calvin Oftana and Roger Pogoy.
Except for Pogoy, who is still barred from doing live drills, the other 15 players were able to participate in contact workouts, including the previously injured Dwight Ramos and the newest member of the program, AJ Edu.
Ramos has been cleared to play after getting a positive result from his magnetic resonance imaging test on his knee injury.
Edu, the 6-foot-10 Filipino Cypriot slotman who joined the Gilas pool despite nursing an ankle injury, was also cleared to participate as soon as they returned to Manila from their European camp.
Scottie Thompson, however, was unable to join the resumption of training as he is still sidelined by a fractured right metacarpal, an injury that he sustained towards the end of their camp in Lithuania.
Mainstays June Mar Fajardo and Japeth Aguilar were there as well as other Philippine Basketball Association stars like Jamie Malonzo, CJ Perez, Chris Newsome and Poy Erram, Japan B. League stars Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena, Korean Basketball League sensation Rhenz Abando, and naturalized players Justin Brownlee and Ange Kouame.
But head coach Chot Reyes didn’t discount the possibility of adding players given the situation that the Gilas pool is being hampered by injuries.
Although he had earlier named an initial list of 21 players in the pool, only 16 are actively participating.
Carl Tamayo begged off from joining the pool, citing a knee injury.
It would take a miracle before Thompson could rejoin the team in tip-top condition as the injury would sideline him for six to eight weeks, the same period Oftana had to wait when he suffered the same injury while playing for NLEX last year.
Jordan Heading is still in the United States undergoing rehab on his back injury while the availability of National Basketball Association star Jordan Clarkson and NBA aspirant Kai Sotto remains unclear.
Realistically, the 7-foot-3 Sotto should join Gilas by the end of the NBA Summer League unless, of course, he gets signed up by an NBA squad.
No one knows when Clarkson would rejoin Gilas and the claim of Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas that he would participate in the training six weeks before the start of the FIBA World Cup might come later than expected.
So definitely, additional warm bodies at Gilas practice are very much needed.
But if there’s one player who should be added, then it should be Marcio Lassiter.
With uncertainties on Heading’s availability still an issue, Lassiter, a veteran campaigner and a deadshot swingman who played a key role recently in Gilas’ redemption tour in the 32nd Southeast Asian Games, will be a key addition.
Positionless basketball has become the norm, but outside shooting is definitely essential in international tournaments and Lassiter’s caliber is needed.
He’ll be a big boost now that there is still plenty of time.