The next window of the 2019 Fiba World Cup Asian Qualifiers is a good two months away but coach Yeng Guiao is already bracing for the tough task of choosing his roster from an even larger and stronger pool.
Team Pilipinas’ training pool is expected to balloon to as large as a 20-man group with the looming return of original players from suspensions in time for their crucial matches against Kazakhstan on 30 November and 3 December.
Whipped by three-game suspension apiece, Jayson Castro, Terrence Romeo, Troy Rosario and naturalized player Andray Blatche will be available for the Iran game, extending Guiao’s options to as many as a 20-man pool from the current 16-man training unit.
Aside from the four returning resident national team players, twin towers June Mar Fajardo (shin injury) and Greg Slaughter (ankle injury) are also expected to suit-up coming off injuries that sidelined them in the recently concluded fourth window of the Asian Qualifiers.
Guiao has this welcome problem even as he is yet to recover from a month-long national duty that started from the 18th Asian Games to the Asian Qualifiers.
“They are only serving three-game suspensions, so they will be returning for the Iran game next window,” said Guiao after the Philippines salvaged a gritty 92-81 Monday night win at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“It will be more difficult for me to choose the final 12 players who will suit up in games. It will be a hard decision, that’s why I don’t want to think of it yet for it will be surely a headache,” he added.
Guiao said the return of suspended players and the recovery of Slaughter and Fajardo will be a big boost in the rebound bid against the visiting Iran in November after the Filipinos abosorbed a tough 73-81 loss in Tehran last Thursday.
“With the return of suspended players Jayson, Terrence, Troy and Blatche alongside Fajardo and Slaughter, we’ll be ready for Iran,” he said. “Those guys will play key roles against Iran.”
As of now, the Philippines is steady at third place of Group F with a 5-3 record behind leader Australia (7-1) and Iran (6-2).
Not far behind are streaking Japan (4-4), Kazakhstan (3-5) and Qatar (2-6) which are hopeful to still make it to the top as only the top three squads will qualify into the 32-team World Cup.