The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) has approved the start of training for Batch 1 of players in the Gilas Pilipinas program in preparation for Window 3 of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers next month in Clark, Pampanga.
The first batch is made up of the core that won two games in Window 2 last November in Bahrain, and together with the coaching staff led by Gilas men’s team Project Director Tab Baldwin.
They entered the training facility Sunday at the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna.
The initial group includes 2019 PBA Rookie Draft selections Isaac Go, Rey Suerte and brothers Matt and Mike Nieto, as well as their Window 2 teammates Javi Gomez de Liano, Dave Ildefonso, Justine Baltazar, Calvin Oftana, William Navarro, and Kenmark Carino.
They are joined by naturalization candidate Angelo Kouame and Kiefer Ravena of the NLEX Road Warriors.
“These young men have not only proven their dedication to the Gilas program but have also shown their capability to work well as a team as we saw in the two games against Thailand in the last window,” said SBP President Al Panlilio.
“I’m thankful for their commitment as we continue to lay the foundation for the team we will form in 2023.”
Gilas won two games against Thailand in the bubble in Bahrain, 93-61 last November 27 and 93-69 last November 30, which improved the national team record to 3-0 ahead of Korea (2-0), Indonesia (1-2) and Thailand (0-4) in Group A.
The Window 3 event will be played at the Asian University Foundation (AUF) from February 20 to 22 with the Philippines hosting Group A and Group C with Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Guam.
The national team takes on Indonesia on the 20th and Korea on the 22nd.
Panlilio said the first batch is in line with the SBP program of focusing on the amateur or younger players to prepare them for the 2023 FIBA World Cup the country is co-staging with Japan and Indonesia.
However, expect Batch 2 to have more PBA players joining the Inspire training bubble.
“As always we appreciate the unwavering support of PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial and the PBA Board to the Gilas program,” said Panlilio.
“We had very good discussions with the PBA and we were able to get the commitment of several PBA players who will be part of the second batch coming into the bubble training on January 22nd.”
Aside from Baldwin, the Gilas coaching staff includes SBP Coaches Commission director Jong Uichico and Boyet Fernandez, while added to the group are Meralco mentor and former national team coach Norman Black, Rain or Shine head coach Caloy Garcia and TNT assistant Sandy Arespachochaga.
As part of the guideline set by the IATF, all the players and coaches entering the training bubble will follow strict protocol as approved by the Joint Administrative Order (JAO) made up of the Games and Amusements Board, Department of Health and the Philippine Sports Commission.