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SKIPPER Kiefer Ravena is one of the two holdovers from the gold-medal SEA Games team last year. photograph by DAVID JOHN CUBANGBANG@tribunephl_dvd

Gilas Pilipinas interim coach Mark Dickel went for the best players available in the pool in selecting the national team that will play Indonesia on Sunday for the first window of 2021 International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Asia Cup Qualifiers.

Hit by a series of beg-offs from more experienced Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) players, Dickel had no choice but to bring back two players who were part of the gold-medal team in the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games to provide stability in the squad.

And with June Mar Fajardo sidelined by a serious injury and Christian Standhardinger, Japeth Aguilar, Vic Manuel and Matthew Wright, who were part of the SEA Games champion squad, skipping the first window due to personal reasons, the Phl 5 has to bank on the leadership of Kiefer Ravena and Troy Rosario as they go for the first win against the host Indonesia in Britama Arena.

“You have to pick the best players that are in the group, and I felt we did that. For the players that missed out, really unfortunate for them,” said Dickel, who will be making his debut as Gilas Pilipinas head coach.

“But for the players who made it, they earned their spots. They are going on Sunday in Indonesia and perform,” he added.

Ravena and Rosario led the 12-man team that was announced by Dickel on Wednesday night after the team’s practice at the Meralco gym.

RR Pogoy will be returning to the Gilas fold after missing the SEA Games due to an injury, while CJ Perez, Poy Erram, Abu Tratter and Thirdy Ravena are the other players in the final rosters who have played in the seniors program.

Making his debut is Justin Chua, a late addition in the pool due to the withdrawal of Standhardinger, Aguilar and Manuel. Special draft top pick Isaac Go, Matt Nieto, Juan Gomez De Liaño and Dwight Ramos are the four players in the team that has no PBA experience.

Jayvee Mocon is the only PBA player who failed to make the cut but he’s one of the three reserves along with amateurs JD Tungcab and Rey Suerte.

Dickel said the 12 players he picked can compete against Indonesia, to be mentored by former Gilas Pilipinas mentor Rajko Toroman.

“We feel that the PBA players that we picked gave us a really good base to build off and the other five young players can compliment them. So, that was the decision that was made. That’s why we made it, we feel this will give us the best chance in this window to do well,” Dickel said.

“It was not an easy team to pick. We had numerous combinations that we could’ve gone with. But in all honesty, the team in the last two days of practice have made it much, much easier to pick.”

Dickel will be assisted by Gilas program director Tab Baldwin, Sandy Arespacochaga, Alex Compton and Topex Robinson at the bench.

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