Castro, Romeo return in 24-man Gilas Pilipinas pool for 2017

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – The 24-man Gilas Pilipinas pool for 2017 is finally complete.

Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) president Al Panlilio announced the 12 veteran selections to complement the 12 previously drafted cadets on Sunday, January 22 in between two PBA games.

The pool is a mix of new and old faces as Asia's best point guard Jayson Castro effectively came out of his national team retirement to play again. Castro announced he would no longer play for Gilas after the country's failed bid in the FIBA Olympic Qualifier last year.

Also returning for another tour of duty are Terrence Romeo, Calvin Abueva, and reigning 3-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo.

See the full 24-man pool list below, with the newly-announced additions in bold.

Young, balanced pool

According to comebacking coach Chot Reyes, the pool, whose oldest age is at 30 years old, was created with the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup – and subsequently the 2020 Olympics – as primary target.

"We chose players who will be at the peak of their careers in 3 years time," said Reyes, adding he explained to former Gilas mainstays such as Marc Pingris, Ranidel De Ocampo, and Gabe Norwood this decision to go younger.

"I think it's a very young team. It's balanced and I think it's got the combination of everything we need to run the system that we want to run," Reyes described the pool he will need to work with for several big tournaments this year alone.

"As always our issue really is making them come together and making them a team. Right now they are not yet a team but we like the combination of youth and veteran smarts. If you look at Jayson, Japeth, and June Mar, they're 30 years old and younger but they've had a lot of experience already. It's a good mix."

"I think it's the tallest group of players that we can assemble in the country today, I really like its composition," he added.

The formation of the pool is the product of a strengthened partnership between the PBA and the country's basketball federation in seeking international excellence for Philippine basketball.

PBA teams have agreed to lend at least one player to the national team, though they can choose to lend more, which could potentially be the case for the Manny V. Pangilinan-owned team TNT as Reyes mentioned he may tap former Gilas member and versatile forward Troy Rosario in the future.

In case of unforeseen circumstances such as injuries, however, Panlilio clarified Reyes may go back to a PBA team and switch for another player.

"Right now as far as the PBA is concerned, they will give one player per team minimum. It doesn't say anything about a limit, it really depends on the PBA team," Panlilio said.

"It's a work in progress, even the relationship or arrangement," Reyes chimed in. "We will continue talking and continue communicating."

Blatche, tough schedule ahead

Reyes noted naturalized player Andray Blatche is the 25th player on the pool, saying "he remains committed" to Gilas. The only issue with Blatche, however, is if the team's tough schedule ahead does not clash with his playing duties in China.

Apart from Blatche, Gilas is still on the lookout for other potential naturalized players with coach Josh Reyes – who is part of Reyes' core coaching staff along with retired captain Jimmy Alapag and former TNT coach Jong Uichico – already in Toronto, Canada attending the NBA D-League Showcase to scout imports. Uichico will also be off on a different scouting trip by Monday, January 23.

Reyes is not closing his doors on future additions to the pool outside of the PBA, such as Kiefer Ravena and Ray Parks.

The Philippine men's basketball team will have a busy 2017 ahead with competitions that include the SEABA Championship, which will serve as qualifier for the new FIBA Asia Continental Cup by November, and then the Southeast Asian Games in August.

But Reyes emphasized the priority for now is the must-win SEABA tournament, whose dates and venue have yet to be finalized. The SBP has expressed intention to host but has yet to receive confirmation from SEABA.

As a result, there are no finalized Gilas training schedules for now.

After SEABA, Reyes and SBP will sit down to tackle the SEA Games. –