Gilas Pilipinas guard Rey Suerte sprained his ankle during practice Wednesday, June 9, the third player to sustain an injury for the national team that is gearing up for the third window of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers this month.
Suerte, the second overall pick in the PBA’s “Special Gilas Draft” back in 2019, joins Matt Nieto (broken hand) and Dave Ildefonso (stress fracture on foot) in the injured list of Gilas.
Aside from the Asia Cup qualifiers on June 16 to 20 in Clark, Pampanga, the availability of the three players are also questionable in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) on June 29 to July 4 in Serbia.
“The swelling is significant,” said Gilas men’s program director Tab Baldwin in reference to the 6-foot-2 guard who played college ball for University of Visayas in CESAFI league.
“He was recently designated as our Team Captain so this is not good news at all. It’s unfortunate because he was also doing very well in practice.”
Gilas, which is in a training camp ‘bubble’ at the Inspire Academy in Calamba, Laguna, plays South Korea on June 16 and 20, and Indonesia on June 18 in the Asia Cup qualifiers.
In the OQT, the Filipinos face the Dominican Republic and host team Serbia.
According to the team’s resident trainer Dexter Aseron, Suerte miscalculated his landing while jumping for a rebound. It added unnecessary weight on the ankle that caused the injury.
“By my estimation, it looks like a Grade 2 or 3 sprain so it could take one to two weeks to recover. We’re hoping there will be no fractures when he gets his x-ray,” Aserson said.
Suerte missed the first game of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers against Indonesia during the first window last February 2020 in Jakarta, but he started both games against Thailand in Window 2 last November 2020 in Bahrain.
His all-around skills made him one of the key contributors for the national team, which Baldwin hopes to have in the two tournaments. He is also among the veteran leaders of Gilas.
“Rey has been our captain and eldest member of the team,” said Baldwin. “His maturity has been a stabilizing force in our group. He’s also an excellent three-point shooter who has a scorer’s mentality so he has become a reliable source of points.”
“We will miss his leadership and scoring punch in the team.”
Suerte’s injury now leaves Isaac Go and Mike Nieto as the remaining 2019 draftees in the team as Allyn Bulanadi is still recuperating from a shoulder injury.
“As a national team, you always believe that you have the talent to replace fallen players. We’re currently looking at Jordan Heading and Jaydee Tungcab to step into the vacancy left by Rey’s injury,” Baldwin said.
“Jordan provides excellent shooting and some ball handling skills while Jaydee is an outstanding open court player who is also a tenacious defender. We are hoping that the impact on the team’s leadership will be minimized by more players stepping up and becoming more vocal, on and off the court.”