Pro players to reinforce Gilas in February qualifiers

Members of Gilas Pilipinas sing the national anthem before its 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers match against Indonesia. (FIBA photo)

The PBA Board of Governors on Thursday gave the green light for Gilas Pilipinas to enlist the services of pro cagers for the third window of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers slated in February.

PBA commissioner Willie Marcial said the board approved the request of Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Al Panlilio after Gilas was forced to field an all-amateur lineup in the recent window that saw the national cagers produce back-to-back wins over Thailand in Bahrain.

“Sinabihan kami ni (SBP) president Al Panlilio na baka pwedeng gumamit ng PBA players at pinapayagan naman namin,” Marcial said, adding that the matter will be further discussed once the SBP submits a formal request to the board.

Having PBA players in the window is something that prompted the PBA to push back the planned start of the 46th season in April.

Gilas fielded a mixture of PBA and amateur standouts during its lone match of the first window last February, beating Indonesia 100-70 in Jakarta.

Among the PBA cagers who suited up against the Indonesians were NLEX’s Kiefer Ravena, TNT’s RR Pogoy and Terrafirma’s CJ Perez.

The ongoing PBA bubble forced Gilas to go with amateur players even if some of the pros were already available to don the national jersey.

Gilas defeated the Thais, 90-76 and 93-69, under a bubble setup in the Bahrani capital of Manama to move on top of Group A with a 3-0 record.

The SBP has expressed interest in hosting a similar bubble in February, and having pros on the roster will help boost the team’s chances of formalizing its entry in the continental competition.