Pingris changes mind, says he'll suit up for Gilas

MANILA, Philippines – After initially begging off from Gilas Pilipinas duties, veteran forward Marc Pingris had a change of heart and will now rejoin the national team pool, he announced on Wednesday, August 19.

"Despite my earlier pronouncement not to join and give others a chance to play for the country, Purefoods management has asked me to reconsider my decision," the 33-year-old said in a statement.

"I talked to my wife and we agreed. In the end, it was pride and honor in representing the Philippines that prevailed over me.” (READ: Baldwin wants latecomer Pingris back for Gilas)

Pingris, who plays for the Star Hotshots in the PBA, initially decided to skip playing for Gilas this time around, formally speaking with head coach Tab Baldwin during team practice Saturday night, August 15. He said he wanted to focus on the Hotshots' PBA campaign next season as they adjust to their new coach.

He originally took a leave of absence from Gilas due to a scheduled trip to France to visit his family. He arrived back in Manila on Wednesday, August 12, and was expected to join practice the following day but did not show up.

“I am grateful for management’s support and if the Philippine team still needs me, I promise to go all out for the country in the FIBA Asia Championship as it aims to gain a slot in the Rio Olympics next year," the 6-foot-4 Pingris added in the statement.

Pingris has been with Gilas since 2013 when they bagged the silver in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship in Manila. He also saw action in the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain.

"He will represent the country because he wants to. We have no control over our players’ decision when it comes to competing for the national team," said Star Hotshots team governor Rene Pardo.

Before Pingris decided to return, Gilas did not have any player from the San Miguel-owned PBA teams in the pool.

Pardo also said that “management will continue to encourage its pool of players to make themselves available, if they can, for national interest."

"We do not deny that we debate on the merits of them joining as a professional player. However, in the end representing your country is an incomparable honor. You can’t argue with that," he said.

The Gilas pool, which is now in Estonia for a week-long pocket tournament, has been riddled with injuries and player unavailability in recent weeks.

They include June Mar Fajardo (foot injury), LA Tenorio (fatigue, health reasons), Kelly Williams (MCL injury), Andray Blatche (prostatitis), and Ranidel de Ocampo, who joined Gilas in Estonia despite still recovering from a hamstring injury. (READ: Tenorio, Fajardo, Pingris still welcome in Gilas pool, for now)

Gilas will be back in Manila by Monday, August 24. The team will be competing for the gold at the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship in September in Changsha, Hunan, China. – Rappler.com