Even though Gilas Pilipinas won't have mainstay Jayson Castro for the 2019 FIBA World Cup, a returning playmaker can step up in his absence.
NLEX's Kiefer Ravena attended Gilas practice for the first time on Monday at the Meralco Gym. Ravena is being groomed as the replacement for Castro, who recently announced that he is skipping the tournament in China to be with his family.
Ravena had just ended a 487-day layoff from basketball following a FIBA-mandated suspension.
Even though his suspension ends on August 24, Ravena can return to practice again in "the last two months of ineligibility or the last one-quarter of period of ineligibility imposed," according to the FIBA rules.
"I first thank the Lord and people who supported me since I was able to practice for the first time, all the more for the national team," Ravena told reporters in Filipino.
Guiao said that he was impressed by how Ravena kept himself fit even though he did not practice for 16 months.
"[Ravena's] sharpness is there, his stamina is there, does not look like he's heavy, that's just his natural body. So, things are looking good at this point," shared Guiao.
Robert Bolick of NorthPort and CJ Perez of Columbian were also in attendance after getting invited to the training pool. Gilas coach Yeng Guiao said the two rookies were tapped in case someone from the roster gets injured and can be used in the national team's SEA Games campaign in November as well.
"This is my opportunity [for the national squad]. I'm just happy to be here. Whatever happens, I'm already happy," said Bolick.
Perez and Bolick could also take the place of Scottie Thompson, who according to Guiao has begged off from the Gilas pool.
"(Scottie) feels he's not ready to compete internationally. He believes some other player can take his spot that can perform that role," explained Guiao.
Thompson, who averaged 2.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists in five games for Gilas, told Guiao that he needs to refine his game in order to be at par with international play.
"His intention is good. He was humble enough and he was honest enough to state the truth, unlike other people who are making up excuses," said Guiao. "That's what I appreciate - just being straightforward, honest, just being humble to accept that there is somebody out there who can perform better and he will try to improve himself so he can get back to the national team."
June Mar Fajardo, Mark Barroca, Stanley Pringle, Japeth Aguilar, and Raymond Almazan, RR Pogoy, Paul Lee, Troy Rosario, Poy Erram and Marcio Lassiter also attended the Monday practice.