After missing their first game, veteran guard Jayson Castro will return to the court as Gilas caps off the second window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers against Japan.
Gilas coach Chot Reyes, who revealed the lineup for Sunday's matchup on the ESPN5 Facebook page, said Castro has looked fine the last few days in practice "but that's without full contact."
Apart from Castro, the Gilas 12 against Japan includes Andray Blatche, June Mar Fajardo, Japeth Aguilar, Roger Pogoy, Kiefer Ravena, Matthew Wright, Gabe Norwood, Calvin Abueva, Allen Maliksi and Jio Jalalon who also missed the previous outing because of a leg injury.
Asked why Jalalon made the cut, the Gilas coach said the team needed "his hustle, his defense, and his ability to pressure the ball."
"We felt that's the one thing that we were missing in our last game against Australia. We didn't have anyone who put hard pressure on the ball from the back court. Jio has already shown that ability even in Beirut," he added.
Also part of the lineup against the Akatsuki Five is Troy Rosario, who was supposed to fly with the team to Melbourne but was unable to get full medical clearance prior to the Boomers matchup.
"We were in Australia when we finally got his clearance," explained Reyes. "He already had provisional clearance even before we left, but we felt it was better for him to take the couple extra days off to make sure he's much closer to top form."
Kevin Alas, Abu Tratter, Carl Bryan Cruz will sit out Gilas' last game of the second window.
The national team is set to play Japan, which has yet to notch a win in the qualifiers, in Manila at the Mall of Asia Arena on Sunday at 7:30 p.m.
"We are looking to get an adrenaline lift from the crowd," said Reyes. "We are really hoping and counting on the hometown support, the sixth man, to really lift us tomorrow because we will definitely need it."
Castro was a vital part of Gilas' offense in the first window after averaging 20.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists in the wins over Japan and Chinese Taipei. But a sprained ankle sustained in the PBA games forced Reyes to exclude him from the final 12 against Australia.
The Boomers eventually defeated Gilas to keep a perfect record (3-0) and remain at the top of Group B.
In their encounter in the first window Gilas survived a scrappy Japan team behind Castro's 20 points, seven rebounds, and six assists.
Gilas currently holds a 2-1 card in the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers, while Japan remains winless at 0-3.