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We’re still cramming – Uichico






Jong Uichico


Gilas Pilipinas mentor Jong Uichico expects a tough campaign for the all-amateur national team when it competes in the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers set Nov. 26 to 30 in Manama, Bahrain.

With just three weeks to prepare for the tournament, chemistry is a big concern for a talent-rich squad since they come from various backgrounds and play for different schools.

“We’re cramming, trying to put things which we hope the players would absorb before we start playing in the qualifiers,” said Uichico, who was appointed as head coach of the national team by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), in an interview Saturday.

The national team leaves Sunday for Bahrain, which will host the tournament in a ‘bubble’ set up similar to the NBA and the PBA due to health reasons for the safety of players and officials from COVID-19.

SBP President Al Panlilio announced the 16-man training pool for the event, but Uichico said the coaching staff has yet to finalize the players they’ll bring in Bahrain to play for Gilas Pilipinas.



What is certain is that Ateneo’s Angelo Kouame won’t be able to play since his naturalization papers is still being processed. Also doubtful is Fil-Am Dwight Ramos while gunner Allyn Bulanadi can’t join the team due to an injury.

That leaves the team with 13 players, led by PBA rookie draftees early this year, namely Isaac Go, Matt and Mike Nieto, and Rey Suerte.

Joining them are collegiate stalwarts Kobe Paras, Calvin Oftana, Justin Baltazar, Kenmark Carino, Dave Ildefonso, Will Navarro, Jaydee Tungcab, and Gomez de Liano brothers Juan and Javi.

“We’ll finalize the final 12 before we fly to Bahrain,” said Uichico, who called the shots for the all-PBA national team during the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, Korea, and the gold medal winning squads in the 2015 (Myanmar) and 2017 (Malaysia) Southeast Asian Games.