Gilas Pilipinas players led by Kai Sotto and naturalized player Ange Kouame will comprise the Gilas Pilipinas pool that will be going to the fifth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
Sotto, the 7-foot-3 center playing for the Adelaide 36ers in the National Basketball League, and Kouame, the Philippines’ naturalized player from Ateneo, will man the front court of the national squad that will play away games against Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
The Philippines will take on Jordan on November 10 (midnight of 11 November in Manila) and Saudi Arabia on November 13 (midnight of 14 November in Manila).
On Saturday, Kouame skipped the training team’s final workout before leaving for Jordan late Monday night but joined the rest of the team at the airport.
Sotto, on the other hand, will join Gilas Pilipinas in the Middle East as final details of his accommodation are now being worked out by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas.
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The Gilas training team stepped up its preparations in against Jordan and worked primarily on its defensive schemes against one of the most formidable teams in the Middle East.
Led by naturalized player Dar Tucker, a shooting guard, and his backcourt partner Freddie Ibrahim as well as 6-foot-10 Ahmad Al-Dwairi, Jordan fell two points short of reaching the championship round of the FIBA Asia Cup this year, losing to eventual runners-up Lebanon by one.
Kiefer Ravena was a late scratch and won’t be able to make it to the fifth window after he underwent an operation on his impacted wisdom tooth. However, the other B. League players Dwight Ramos, Ray Parks and Thirdy Ravena attended the final workout.
They were joined by the other pool members of the squad, most of them coming from the Philippine Basketball Association.
The PBA stars who were included in the pool are reigning MVP Scottie Thompson and his Barangay Ginebra teammates Japeth Aguilar and Jamie Malonzo, CJ Perez of San Miguel Beer, Roger Pogoy, Calvin Oftana and Poy Erram of TNT. Arvin Tolentino and Will Navarro of NorthPort did not make the final 13, along with Francis Lopez.
Aside from Kouame, Kevin Quiambao of La Salle is the only other collegiate star who made it to the pool.
On Monday’s final workout held at the Meralco gym, TNT players Carl Bryan Cruz and Dave Marcelo were invited to simulate Jordan’s offensive sets.
SBP president Al Panlilio and PBA commissioner Willie Marcial dropped by Gilas’ final practice and wished the national team the best of luck in the fifth window, while Chris Newsome of Meralco, who was initially included in the pool, but was dropped from the roster after suffering a contusion on his calf, gave some words of wisdom to his comrades.
“Don’t take this opportunity for granted. Stay together. Give it all out there. Remember what you’re representing. Tune out everything that’s going on out there outside. Good luck guys,” said Newsome as he spoke to the members of the team.