Former SMART-Gilas Pilipinas national coach Rajko Toroman was not surprised by the list of players named by Chot Reyes to comprise the 16-man PBA pool. According to the Serbian coach, the league is still the best source of cage talent in the country.
“You cannot find them elsewhere, but in the PBA,” he said.
He added that unlike his SMART-Gilas team composed mainly of amateur talent, a team composed of the best PBA players would need shorter time to prepare for high-level cage competition.
“Even in Europe, players are also playing for their respective club teams and would only prepare for three months, so I think it would be enough time as well for the PBA players,” he said, adding that he wishes the team well.
In the original SMART-Gilas roster, only Marcio Lassiter was named to the PBA players’ pool, although Jimmy Alapag, Kelly Williams, and Ranidel De Ocampo also played for Toroman in the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship. Naturalized center Marcus Douthit is also expected to be part of the pool.
Reyes said the SMART-Gilas program is taking a two-pronged approach to international competition, getting seasoned players from the PBA while also developing the next batch of talents.
“We’ve seen it when we formed SMART-Gilas, we were sending players who are 21, 23 years old, but they were up against 27, 28-year-old players, so pagdating dun minamama tayo,” he said.
At the same time, however, SMART-Gilas is forming a cadet pool to compose the next generation of players for the program.
“We are preparing them for the next batch,” said Reyes of the cadet pool, which will be comprised of top collegiate and amateur standouts.
“National teams should be in two cycles. You have young players from the PBA, who will become members of your national squad in the next few years and you have a cadet pool composed of non-PBA players.”