The Gilas Pilipinas pool will see a familiar face returning, even as another turned down an invitation. While NLEX guard Kiefer Ravena is set to return, Blackwater Elite rookie sensation Ray Parks was offered to be part of the Gilas Pilipinas pool but ultimately declined, according to head coach Yeng Guiao after Monday night's practice at the Meralco Gym.
"We're looking at some other guys we want to invite," Guiao said. "By Monday Kiefer (Ravena) will be ready. Then we have a few other names that we want to invite. Actually, for today we invited Ray Parks but he declined. We're just going to have to look for some other people whom we can consider in the national pool."
Ravena is currently serving a FIBA-imposed suspension after testing positive for a banned substance following the second FIBA Qualifiers window last year, but will be cleared to practice starting Monday, per conditions of his suspension.
Parks said he responded to the invite with the following message to Gilas team management:
"Good evening as much as I appreciate the invite and opportunity, I have to decline because my team is having the best conference the franchise is ever having and it would be difficult if I suddenly leave them in the middle of the season. I hope you all understand."
Parks has been nothing short of spectacular in his first seven games for the Elite. He's currently averaging 23.4 points on 43-percent shooting, 6.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.7 steals. The second-generation PBA star is also no stranger to international competition as he recently represented the country in the Southeast Asian Games in 2017. He was also part of the team that competed in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in 2016.
With Jayson Castro's status in the national team still in doubt, Guiao is looking at other options. Fortunately, Ravena will be able to be back in practice next week.
"That's going to be crucial for us. We cannot afford to lose Jayson and Kiefer. We'll be depleted in the point guard position," said Guiao. "I don't see any problem with Kiefer. By that time, he's going to be eligible. He's just going to catch up in the conditioning. Of course he will not be in basketball shape. But I have full confidence that he's taking care of himself. He's not in full basketball shape but he's in decent shape."
The national team preparing for the FIBA World Cup in August but are limited by the number of players available to practice. On Monday, a total of just nine players were in attendance. Paul Lee, Troy Rosario, Gabe Norwood, Japeth Aguilar, Poy Erram, RR Pogoy, and Mark Barroca participated in the drills as June Mar Fajardo and Marcio Lassiter were in street clothes.
ESPN5's Carlo Pamintuan contributed to this report.