By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
Veteran coach Jong Uichico will be manning the sidelines for Gilas Pilipinas when it plunges into action next week for the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers in Manama, Bahrain.
Mr. Uichico, 58, was officially announced as the Gilas coach for the November window of the qualifiers on Thursday in a virtual media conference attended by officials of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, including president Al Panlilio and chairman emeritus Manny V. Pangilinan.
In the coaching staff with Mr. Uichico are SBP project director Tab Baldwin, assistant coach Boyet Fernandez, and skills coach Alton Lister.
Mr. Uichico’s designation as coach followed that of the naming last week of the pool of players from which the team that will be competing in the Asia Cup qualifiers from Nov. 26 to 30 will be drawn from.
Part of the 16-man Gilas pool of amateur and collegiate stars are Kobe Paras, Juan and Javi Gomez De Liano and Jaydee Tungcab of the University of the Philippines, Dwight Ramos, Dave Ildefonso and Will Navarro of Ateneo, Justine Baltazar of La Salle, and Calvin Oftana and Kenmark Carino of San Beda.
They join Gilas Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) draftees Matt and Mike Nieto, Rey Suerte, Isaac Go and Allyn Bulanadi.
Angelo Kouame of Ateneo is also included as a naturalized player, but whether he gets to play is to be determined as his papers are still being processed.
“This is something new for me (handling an all-cadet national team) but it is a challenge I welcome,” said Mr. Uichico, who led the Philippine men’s basketball team to the gold medal in the Southeast Asian Games in 2017.
“We are now in the process of preparing them for the international game. They’re young so we’re trying to make it simple for them given the limited time we have,” added the coach, also the head of the SBP coaches academy.
The Gilas team is currently training in a bubble at the INSPIRE Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna, after getting the go-signal from the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).
It is set to leave for Bahrain on Sunday, Nov. 22.
Currently, the Philippines sports a 1-0 record in Group A of the qualifiers after defeating Indonesia, 100-70, in February, behind Korea (2-0).
Gilas is set to face Thailand (0-1) twice in the November window (Nov. 26 and 30) and Korea once (Nov. 28).
Korea, however, made it known it would not be sending a team to Bahrain to compete because of the ongoing concern with the coronavirus pandemic. It remains to be seen if the Koreans’ absence would result in an automatic win for the Philippines by forfeiture.