The first-ever practice session of the new Smart Gilas Pilipinas national men's basketball team, dubbed "Gilas II", was held last night at the San Juan Arena, where all sixteen PBA players selected in the pool by head coach Chot Reyes were in attendance. Jimmy Alapag, Kelly Williams, Gabe Norwood, Gary David, LA Tenorio, Jason Castro, Larry Fonacier, Ryan Reyes, Sonny Thoss, Ranidel De Ocampo, Enrico Villanueva, and late additions JV Casio, Jeff Chan, Jared Dillinger, Mac Baracael and Sol Mercado all joined the 45-minute training, with only Reyes not suited up due to a hyper extended knee.
"I'm happy with today's turnout. Most players came about 30 minutes earlier than the call time. Basically, this practice was just to get together and explain our offensive system. Many of them had a (PBA) game last night so we decided to just run through the offenses," said Reyes, who also mentored the PBA-managed national team from 2005 to 2007.
Naturalized player Marcus Douthit was unable to show up, as he had to bring his daughter suffering from asthma to the hospital. Also present were assistant coaches Jong Uichico, Ryan Gregorio, Nash Racela and Josh Reyes, and team manager Butch Antonio.
After the short workout, Reyes gathered the national team candidates and asked for suggestions for their official chant. Since nobody could come up with an idea just yet, he offered a temporary rallying call. As he shouted "Laban Pilipinas," the players replied with "Puso!" "There's only one way to do this (playing for flag and country), and it's with a lot of heart," added Reyes.
The team then proceeded to the Outback Steak House for a dinner hosted by Smart.
Gilas II will be having their regular practices every Monday evenings.
In the original list submitted by Reyes to the PBA in March, B-Meg's James Yap and Marc Pingris, and Petron's Arwind Santos, Alex Cabagnot and Marcio Lassiter, all from the San Miguel Corporation group, were included. However, they failed to send a signed letter of commitment, which forced the Gilas coaching staff to name other candidates, namely Casio, Baracael, Chan, Mercado and Dillinger. The other players in the list immediately signed after learning about their inclusion to the national pool. Curiously, the first player to submit the commitment letter was Ginebra's Enrico Villanueva, who also belongs to the SMC group.
The team will vie in next year's FIBA-Asia Championships, where three slots to the 2014 FIBA World Cup are at stake.