Philippine Team Update
The dreaded sideline presence that is Yeng Guiao is counting the days with trepidation as the hour of reckoning approaches.
“That will be the most difficult decision probably coming in the next three weeks,” said Guiao, head coach of Powerade Team Pilipinas, during practice Tuesday night at The Arena in San Juan.
With seven days to go before the national team leaves for the William Jones Cup tournament in Taipei, Guiao is not losing sleep over how to deal with South Korea and Japan, the Philippines’ companions, along with Sri Lanka, in Group A of the FIBA-Asia World Championship qualifier in Tianjin, China next month.
Neither is he bristling over a statement made by an Iranian player discounting the RP team as a contender for a top three spot to the 16th World Championship in Istanbul, Turkey next year.
“That’s a good thing, the Iranians being complacent and counting us out,” he said. “That will give us the incentive to prove them wrong.”
Guiao, instead, is fretting over how to go about choosing the final 12 players for Tianjin – from a roster of 14 – a judgment he has to hand down in the midst of the Taipei tournament.
“All of these guys have invested so much in the team, and all of them had been performing well without any exception since the SEABA,” he said.
Injuries and illness, Guiao said, will play a big part in determining who eventually to take aside for a quiet talk.
“We will still rely on our first criteria – the least healthy guys are going to be the prime candidates for the cutoff,” he said.
With forward Kelly Williams still recovering from a blood disorder, the arrival of 6-foot-9 Japeth Aguilar from the States two weeks ago has brought back to 14 the number of candidates.
And though Guiao has refused to guarantee the inclusion of any player to the official lineup, it is largely believed the shot-blocking son of former Northern Consolidated center Peter Aguilar is a shoo-in.
A couple others may also have a foot in the door.
“I would hate to cut somebody like Ryan Reyes,” Guiao said. “But if he’s not healthy then, we have to make that decision. I’m very hopeful, however, that he can be healthy at least for Tianjin.”
Reyes joined Jayjay Helterbrand and Sonny Thoss on the bench after pulling a hamstring against Malaysia in the 8th SEABA Men’s Championship in Medan, Indonesia last April.
Helterbrand (hamstring) and Thoss (strained knee) have since returned, leaving Reyes’ condition in doubt.
A big question looms in the horizon: What if all 14 players are healthy by July 22, the deadline for submission of entries to the 25th FIBA Asia Men’s Championship?
“Then I will have a big headache,” Guiao said. “But I would rather have that problem, choosing from 14 healthy guys, than having somebody injured.”