THE final 12-man line-up of Smart Gilas Pilipinas for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) was already announced, but not without some eyebrows raised.
In a TV5 program special Sunday evening, the 12 players who will represent the country in the FOQT were named--naturalized import Andray Blatche, June Mar Fajardo, Japeth Aguilar, Marc Pingris, Jeff Chan, Gabe Norwood, Terrence Romeo, Jayson Castro, Ryan Reyes, Bobby Ray Parks, Ranidel De Ocampo and Troy Rosario, with Calvin Abueva and LA Tenorio left out in the cold as they were the final cuts and will automatically be the reserves.
Team manager Butch Antonio said that it was indeed a difficult call for national coach Tab Baldwin, but Tenorio and Abueva accepted the decision professionally and wholeheartedly and that somewhat made it easier for the coaches and the team management.
“It was difficult but what made it easier was the way they responded, the way they took the decision. It was team first before them,” said Antonio.
The main surprise was the exclusion of Abueva, who was pivotal part of Gilas Pilipinas’ silver medal campaign in the FIBA Asia Championship in China.
Many got caught by surprise, and even reacted, with Abueva being cut and not making it in the final 12.
Abueva even expressed that he is still all in with the national team through a Tweet.
“No hate. Just love. #LabanPilipinas #Puso,” said Abueva through his @8AbuevaCalvin Twitter account.
The lack of ceiling and size may have been the reason why Tenorio and Abueva weren’t picked.
Among those who made it, Reyes is the only first timer. The others had already represented the country in international competition at least once before.
The entire team was welcomed home yesterday as its three-week training camp in Europe concluded.
Gilas Pilipinas will now continue its preparations for the FIBA OQT and it still has one week to do some fine-tuning before plunging to action against France, New Zealand, Canada, Turkey and Senegal to see who gets a seat in the Rio Olympics.
The last tune-up that the Philippine team will have is against Turkey this Friday, at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City, before the actual tournament starts on July 5, when Gilas plays France in the same venue.
Only one among those six competing teams in the Manila leg of the FIBA OQT will move forward to Rio to play in the Olympics.
Gilas is looking to make it to the Olympics for the first time in more than four decades.
Meanwhile, Smart Gilas Pilipinas bounced back on the hardwood as it tripped China, 72-69, in Italy to win its second tune-up game overall and first in its Europe trip.
Romeo seemed to be back in form, scoring 18 points to lead the way for the Nationals.
Tenorio and Abueva did not see action already in this game.