The Gilas pool poses for posterity during Monday night's practice. | Photo from Chot Reyes' Twitter (@coachot)

'Cream of Philippine basketball crop' gathers for year's first Gilas practice
Nelson Beltran (philstar.com) - January 9, 2018 - 10:36am

MANILA, Philippines – Ateneo hotshot Thirdy Ravena and Lyceum stalwart CJ Perez led 11 other youngsters who immediately answered the call of national coach Chot Reyes, showing up at the resumption of the Gilas Pilipinas training at the Meralco Gym Monday night.

Isaac Go, Kemark Carino, Paul Desiderio, J-Jay Alejandro, Javee Mocon, Robert Bolick, Juan Gomez De Liano, Will Gozum, Arvin Tolentino, Jeo Ambohot and Joshua Sinclair also came, joining Gilas veterans in what the Gilas coach considered as “perhaps the largest gathering of multi-generational talent in Philippine hoop history.”

Cage patron Manny V. Pangilinan, SBP president Al Panlilio, vice chairman Robbie Puno, executive director Sonny Barrios and deputy executive director Bernie Atienza came to personally welcome the youngsters to the Gilas pool.

Everybody was enthusiastic as the new cadets were called one by one to get their Gilas training jersey from the SBP vice chair.

Missing from Reyes’ “23 for ’23” pool were those who were either sick, out of the country or playing abroad.

The biggest surprise was the appearance of La Salle guard/forward Ricci Rivero as a spectator.

“He came on his own volition. I don’t know if they’re going to try to talk to their team. The pool is open. We’re all inclusive. But that’s a different discussion altogether,” said Reyes.

The Gilas coach earlier said La Salle requested that their players not be tapped in the pool yet as they are in a transition period under a new coach.

Rivero’s appearance in the Gilas practice might well be an indication of his desire to be with the pool. Accompanied by his father, Rivero declined interview requests.

Veterans present at the start of their buildup for the second window of the FIBA Asia World Cup qualifiers were Kiefer Ravena, Troy Rosario, Allein Maliksi, Carl Cruz, Roger Pogoy, Mac Belo, Kevin Alas, Jio Jalalon, Japeth Aguilar, Jayson Castro, Matthew Wright and Gabe Norwood.

Absent were June Mar Fajardo, Calvin Abueva and Raymond Almazan.

Gilas takes on Australia at the Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne on February 22 then plays host to Japan three days later.

The Nationals and the Boomers are tied at 2-0 while the Japanese and the Taiwanese are at 0-2 in Group B going to the second window of the qualifiers. A top three finish in this group will hand the Philippines a berth in the second round.

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