SBP eyes 15-man pool

ANDRAY Blatche returns for another tour of duty when Team Pilipinas figures in the sixth and final window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifier in Kazakhstan and Qatar next month. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

In a bid to build a solid chemistry and more preparation, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) is set to trim its training pool to just 15 players ahead of the crucial last window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifier next month.

SBP president Al Panlilio and Team Pilipinas head coach Yeng Guiao bared the development with more than a month left before the Nationals’ must-win road matches against Qatar and Kazakhstan.

The reduced pool was SBP’s response to Guiao’s concern about the chemistry and cohesion of a large 20-man pool that led to a pair of tough home losses to Kazakhstan and Iran in the fifth window of the Asian qualifier.

“Yes, there will be just a 15-man pool for this window,” said Panlilio.

Guiao, also the NLEX coach in the Philippine Basketball Association, hinted that players in the soon-to-be formed training pool would be sourced from the original group that saw acti on in the previous window.

“Most of them will be retained. We will have just a small pool now, a 15-man pool for the players to have an easier time of absorbing the system and for longer time of practicing,” said Guiao following the first-ever PBA Media Day.

“A smaller pool means more focus and attention — that is what we are eyeing because this window will be critical for our campaign.”

Previous reports have it that Guiao is seriously looking at tapping naturalized player Andray Blatche to reinforce the 15-man squad.

Blatche’s inclusion, however, would mean that Filipino-German Christian Standhardinger and Filipino-American Stanley Pringle will not be allowed to suit up as they are considered naturalized players in the international arena.

“With Blatche’s entry, that means Christian and Stanley will be out (as naturalized players). That’s the harsh reality we have to face,” he said.

“It’s a regret because Christian and Stanley are Filipinos; they are locals.”

Now, Guiao could only hope that Blatche will prove that he’s worthy of the spot by coming in early and in shape so he can provide the help Team Pilipinas needs.

“There’s no doubt that Andray is a game-changer. The only thing we are concerned about is what kind of shape he is in,” Guiao added. “If he’s well motivated and in well condition, he will be a big difference to the national team.”

Panlilio said the SBP is already finalizing the details of his arrival, which could be at least on the third week of January, so he could learn Guaio’s system just in time for the Filipinos’ road game on 21 and 24 February.

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