By REYNALD MAGALLON
The preparations of Gilas Pilipinas for the sixth and final window of the FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers is shifting to higher gear but injuries continue to plague the national team with just a couple of days left before the game against Lebanon.
Gilas assistant coach Tim Cone revealed that the team is going full swing with its preparation, conducting twice-a-day training starting Tuesday, Feb. 21.
“I’m basically going full time with Gilas the whole week because we’re going to do two-a-day practices starting on Tuesday. We have practice tomorrow night (Monday), and another two practices on Wednesday,” said Cone.
Gilas, however, will have another man down with an injury after RR Pogoy ruled himself out of the sixth window after being diagnosed with bone bruise on his right foot which he hurted in TNT’s game against Meralco last Friday.
The Tropang Giga gunner was actually out of commission for the next two weeks joining big men Japeth Aguilar, and Ange Kouame in the sick bay as they are also both nursing knee injuries.
Kai Sotto, on the other hand, opted out for this window to focus on restarting his bid to join the NBA while it’s still unclear whether B.League-bound Carl Tamayo will be able to rejoin the team since signing with the Hiroshima Dragonflies last week.
The good news though is the Japan-based players Thirdy Ravena, Dwight Ramos, Ray Parks, and Jordan Heading ˗ all of which certainly can make up for the absence of Pogoy — finally joined Gilas practice last Thursday.
San Miguel Beer’s June Mar Fajardo and CJ Perez, TNT’s Calvin Oftana, and Ginebra’s Scottie Thompson, Jamie Malonzo, and naturalized player Justin Brownlee are still in the pool.
NorthPort’s Arvin Tolentino, Meralco’s Raymond Almazan and Chris Newsome and amateur standouts Kevin Quiambao, Francis Lopez, Mason Amos, Deschon Winston, and Jerome Lastimosa have also been joining the practice while Kiefer Ravena was the first B.League player to participate in the training last week.
Gilas Pilipinas is expected to have a tough two-game home stand at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan with Lebanon being led by star Wael Arakji on Friday, Feb. 24 before the nationals take on an equally formidable Jordan three-day after on Feb. 27 on the same venue.