Gilas head coach Chot Reyes announced on Wednesday the lineup he'll use for the national team's game against Australia on Thursday, February 22.
The players competing against the Boomers in the second window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers are Kiefer Ravena, Kevin Alas, Matthew Wright, Allein Maliksi, Calvin Abueva, Gabe Norwood, Carl Bryan Cruz, Japeth Aguilar, Abu Tratter, Roger Pogoy, June Mar Fajardo and Andray Blatche.
Guards Jayson Castro and Jio Jalalon, who both accompanied the team to Melbourne, were left off the list.
Reyes said Castro, who was Gilas' main offensive weapon in the first window of the qualifiers with averages of 20.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game, and Jalalon are nursing injuries.
"As you know Jayson twisted his ankle during their games against Phoenix and Ginebra. As of yesterday, he tried to go hard in practice but still he wasn't (100 percent) there at all. So we decided that Jayson is going to sit out, together with Jio who's also feeling some slight pain in his leg," explained Reyes.
"So we just decided to play the guys who aren't experiencing any nagging injuries at this point."
With Castro and Jalalon out, the point guard duties will fall on the shoulders of NLEX teammates Ravena and Alas. But Reyes has faith in the capabilities of the two and added the team will have to work together in running the offense against the Boomers.
"Both of them have been playing very well in the PBA. You all know Kiefer accounted himself very well in the first window. It's hard not having our top point guard, but this is an opportunity for Kiefer to step in and for Kevin to get a lot more minutes than he usually gets," the Gilas coach said.
"Like we always say, not one guy can fill in the big shoes of Jayson, but every other guy collectively can do so. That's the approach we're going to take tomorrow."
Tratter, the lone guy from the "23 for 2023" pool who flew with the team to Melbourne, made the cut because Reyes said "his size and athletic ability was important to us."
Gilas Pilipinas will face Australia for the first time in the World Cup Asian Qualifiers. The two squads are tied at the top of Group B at 2-0, after both defeated Japan and Chinese Taipei in the first window.