With the fifth window of the 2023 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers out of the way and the sixth and final window coming up in February, there have been some vocal fans On social media who have been calling on Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes to name a permanent Gilas pool. According to this line of thinking, doing so would allow the players to finally start practicing in earnest for the World Cup in August without being distracted by the possibility of being dropped at any time.
Reyes, though, isn’t buying the argument. During a guesting on the online sports talk show PlayItRightTV, the veteran mentor explained why he isn’t inclined to set a specific number on the players who will be under consideration.
“We don’t have a number in mind,” he said. “We don’t think it’s going to be a good idea to limit ourselves. If we say 16,18, 20…what does that really mean? All it does is limit ourselves. So we want to keep it as open as possible, keep the pool a work in progress, keep it fluid, keep getting guys in and out.
“And I know a lot of people are saying, ‘Why don’t you name these guys? Why don’t you name the pool already?’ It’s not easy. I keep saying, ‘Why are we limiting ourselves?’ The tournament is still eight months away. So I think the key is for us to continually make it a work in progress. Get guys in and out. The beauty of this is we are seeing not only who can make it, but when they come in and play with us, we are also seeing the other things.”
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Coach Chot went on to explain that several other intangibles will come into play when evaluating players, such as attitude at practice, camaraderie with others and body language.
Gilas is coming off two rousing wins over Jordan and Saudi Arabia in Window 5, and with the players now returning to their respective teams, Reyes said their weekly Monday practices will be on hold until January. In the meantime, he’s hopeful that Justin Brownlee can suit up for the sixth window, scheduled in late February at the Philippine Arena with Gilas facing Lebanon and Jordan.
“The first order of business is to get Justin Brownlee’s papers in order,” Reyes said. “So that’s going to be important for the team moving forward. And then we have to sit down and plot. We’re gonna play on Feb. 24 so we have to figure out how many Monday practices are required.”
To facilitate the jelling of the team, the coaching staff is looking at the possibility of joining a pocket tournament.
“Those are the things we are taking a look at,” Reyes added. “Especially if Brownlee is already eligible then we would need to have games with him. Remember, the Jordan and the Saudi games were only our third and fourth games together, so we need to play games.”
Tim Cone, Reyes’ assistant at Gilas and Brownlee’s coach at Barangay Ginebra and who also guested on the episode, is also looking forward to the naturalization of his import.
“I think Justin will be a great fit for us, and I think he’ll be a great back-up to Jordan Clarkson.”
Cone added he was pleased with the team’s performance in Window 5, especially on defense where Gilas held their opponents to an average of 64.5 points, with Jordan shooting just 37.3% and Saudi Arabia 29.5%.
“I thought we were really focused on that side of the floor, and that’s basically what’s driven us, is our defense. I think the effort of the players has been outstanding. It’s something that Coach Chot has emphasized over and over and over again. We walked into their stadiums and put the imprint of our game onto them, and I thought it was an outstanding effort from our guys to be able to go out and do the things that we did on a foreign court.”
Added Reyes: “Tim has provided a lot of help, especially on the defensive side, for us. For me, as a coach it’s a great luxury to know that I have someone who has completely got my back there on the bench working as part of the staff.”
Cone said he was just happy to be working again with Reyes, his assistant coach with Alaska in the early ‘90s and with the Centennial Team in 1998.
“I’m very, very happy just to be with the team. It has been a while since we’ve worked together, but we have worked together multiple times through the years.
“We coach opposite. We’re actually very different in the way we coach. I tend to counter a lot of things that he does, and when he does do it I feel like I’m learning a lot from him. It’s really comfortable. I’m really enjoying it and having a great time.”
(Photo credit: FIBA)