LUCENA, Quezon -- A hybrid of PBA players and collegiate standouts composed the 24-man pool released by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) for the first window of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers this February.
NorthPort center Christian Standhardinger leads 11 pro players set to reinforce the pool and is joined by NLEX's Kiefer Ravena and Poy Erram, TNT's Ray Parks, Troy Rosario, Roger Pogoy, Columbian's CJ Perez, Blackwater's Mac Belo, Phoenix's Matthew Wright and Barangay Ginebra's Japeth Aguilar.
Magnolia big man Marc Pingris will make his way back to national team duties after also being included in the pool.
The UP trio of Juan and Javi Gomez de Liano and Kobe Paras headline the collegiate participants, with De La Salle's Justine Baltazar and National University's Dave Ildefonso also set to join the pack.
Filipino-American guard and Ateneo recruit Dwight Ramos was also named by the SBP to the list, making him the youngest player among all players there.
Rounding out the list are Isaac Go, Matt and Mike Nieto, Rey Suerte and Allyn Bulanadi -- incoming rookies added from the special Gilas draft in the 2019 PBA Draft last December -- and Ateneo's Thirdy Ravena and UP's JD Tungcab.
All 24 are set to vie for spots in Gilas' opening campaign in the tournament, where it will take on Thailand and Indonesia on Feb. 20 and 23.
No coach has been named yet to call the shots in February, though, with SBP saying last week that it is set to name one on an interim basis in the coming days.
No June Mar
One notable absentee is five-time PBA Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo, who has been a regular fixture on the national team since 2013. SBP president Al Panlilio said Fajardo remains part of the program, but the federation is using the first window to give exposure to younger players while giving the talented center a chance to rest.
"For the first window of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifier, we are looking to expose our younger players and work build an up tempo team," Panlilio said in a statement issued to ESPN5. "As we said in the recent past, this is a development plan for the national team in preparation for the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup. It's the early days in our program so we wanted to test youngsters who may be deserving of a shot in future big tournaments.
"We all know what we can get from June Mar Fajardo as he has proven himself time and again on the international stage. He has served Gilas for so long and will continue to be a part of the program. However, at this stage, we believe that he deserves the extended break. The wear and tear of chasing a PBA Grand Slam and spending his off days with the San Miguel Beermen playing for Gilas will take a toll on anyone."
"Fajardo remains to be a big part of the future for the Gilas program. He will in fact be at his peak form when the 2023 World Cup comes along.
"We will need his dominance and his international experience and we assure all his supporters that they will see Fajardo wearing a Gilas jersey in the near future."