12 amateur stars in FIBA Asia Challenge.
Mac Belo, Mike Tolomia, Ed Daquioag, Russell Escoto and Roger Pogoy, fresh from leading Phoenix to its second straight PBA D-League crown, lead the cast of amateur players that made it to the final 12 of Gilas Pilipinas for the FIBA Asia Challenge set Sept. 9 to 18 in Tehran, Iran.
The five players were joined by Kevin Ferrer, Von Pessumal, Arnold Van Opstal, Carl Bryan Cruz, CJ Perez, Chris Javier, and Ponso Gotladera as they represent the country in the nine-day tournament that will serve as a qualifier for next year’s FIBA Asia Cup.
Josh Reyes will call the shots for Gilas in the tournament, his first major coaching job after spending time as an assistant for his father Chot Reyes, Nash Racela, and Tab Baldwin in the PBA, UAAP and national team.
The FIBA Asia Challenge will serve as the first competition where Gilas will be led mostly by amateur players but won’t have big names like former UAAP stars Kiefer Ravena, Ray Parks, and Arellano University playmaker Jiovanni Jalalon for various reasons.
Belo, Tolomia, Daquioag, Escoto, and Pogoy are riding high from helping the Accelerators beat the Tanduay Rhum Masters, 2-1, in the PBA D-League Foundation Cup finals.
Ferrer and Gotladera were members of the Rhum Masters side that lost in their first D-League finals appearance, Pessumal’s last played for Gilas in the SEABA Cup last May, Perez is undergoing residency at Lyceum, Van Opstal had been out of action for a year due to an injury, Cruz was an MVP candidate for CaféFrance in the D-League, while was one of the surprise inclusions after suiting up for Racal.
Belo, who has played for Gilas Cadets since last year, expects a tough challenge against some of Asia’s top nations.
“Hindi naman kami ganun katangkad like ’yung ibang teams, kaya kailangan i-double namin ’yung effort,” Belo said. “Sa sistema ni coach Josh, talagang kailangan talaga namin ng mabilisan at kailangan din mag-click ’yung depensa namin.”
Gilas is bracketed in Group B alongside India and Taiwan in the preliminary round before facing different teams in the second round to dispute spots in the quarterfinals.