GILAS Pilipinas, among Team Philippines' elite bets in the 31st SEA Games, departs for Hanoi, Vietnam Friday evening, determined to carry the task of defending the crown most precious for the nation back home.
NLEX stalwart Kevin Alas decided to skip the Games to be with his wife, former PBA courtside reporter Selina Dagdag who is currently suffering from a rare type of cancer. Jaydee Tungcab, a TNT special draftee in 2021, is eyed as a replacement.
"Jaydee is flying with us to Hanoi. They (SEAG officials) say Jaydee can play, and we're hoping makalaro nga siya," said Gilas team manager Butch Antonio.
Minus Alas, eight PBA active players are in coach Chot Reyes' unit chasing a 19th gold medal for the Philippines in the Hanoi men's basketball competition slated May 16-22.
"It's a one-round-robin competition with the team with the best record winning the gold medal. Our team will play six games in seven days," said Antonio.
It will be a tough schedule, and Tungcab, a former UP Maroon, could be a big help if allowed to take over the spot of Alas.
Six-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo of San Miguel banners the cast that includes other PBA players in San Miguel's Moala Tautuaa, Phoenix's Matthew Wright, Terrafirma's Isaac Go and TNT Tropang Giga's Troy Rosario, RR Pogoy and Kib Montalbo.
Kiefer Ravena, an NLEX star on leave of absence, is part of the team along with Gilas cadets Francis Leo Lopez, William Navarro and Thirdy Ravena.
Reyes isn't taking the SEA Games competition lightly, considering Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam as the teams that could pose some problems.
Indonesia, a team coached by former Gilas coach Rajko Toroman, is bringing in a new naturalized player in former Cleveland Cavalier Marques Bolden. Thailand is an eight-time SEAG silver medalist while Vietnam is coming off a bronze-medal breakthrough showing in Manila in 2019. (SB)