TNT stars Roger Pogoy and Troy Rosario as well as NLEX center Raul Soyud are set to join the Gilas Pilipinas training pool inside the bubble at Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna this Friday.
Team manager Gabby Cui said Monday that the trio will be taking their swab tests Tuesday to join 14 others also contending for roster spots for the third and final window of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers next month.
"I'm coming in on the 22nd along with Roger, Troy and Raul Soyud," Cui said on The Game by One Sports. "And then on the 22nd, we enter Inspire, where we do another round of RT-PCR based on protocol so that we can get inside the bubble."
Rosario and Pogoy are coming off 2020 PBA Philippine Cup campaigns where they helped the Tropang Giga to a runner-up finish.
Pogoy was nominated for the Best Player of the Conference (BPC) award after a highly-impressive showing inside the PBA bubble, where he averaged 20 points on 41 percent shooting, 5.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.0 steals.
Rosario, on the other hand, struggled with his shot (35.6 percent from the field) but still managed to put up 10.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 20 games for TNT.
Soyud, meanwhile, was nominated for the Most Improved Player (MIP) award after averaging 10.0 points on a league-best 73.8 percent shooting from the field to go with 6.8 rebounds.
Cui added that the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) is still in contact with amateur stars Dwight Ramos and Juan Gomez de Liano, as well as with other PBA players who can join the pool before training officially starts on Jan. 22.
"We're still hoping that Dwight and Juan can join us. We're still talking to them. There's still time for them to come in, so we're keeping our lines open. It's the same also for some PBA players that might be able to join us," he said. "We're still hoping for some players to join. We're still waiting for their reply."
Already inside the bubble are PBA standouts Kiefer Ravena, CJ Perez and Justin Chua, as well as special Gilas draft selections Isaac Go, Rey Suerte and twins Mike and Matt Nieto. Rounding out the current pool are Justine Baltazar, Javi Gomez de Liaño, Dave Ildefonso, Will Navarro, Calvin Oftana, Kemark Cariño, and naturalized player candidate Angelo Kouame.
No firm number of PBA players or amateurs have been set by the Gilas coaching staff for the February games against South Korea and Indonesia, with Cui saying it all depends on how the players jell during training camp.
"It's really up to the coaching staff. That's why it's important to get the players in the bubble right away. We see the mix," said Cui.
"You see how they adapt to the plays, what's missing -- do we need more height? Do we need more experience? Do we need more physicality, especially now since we're going against seasoned teams. Korea's no joke, they're a force, so you gotta be ready to match them with their physicality. Indonesia also, they're backed up by (Lester) Prosper."
Players inside the bubble camp follow a regimented training schedule set to prepare them for perhaps the most challenging window in the tournament, Cui said.
"Ever since they got in the bubble, it's breakfast in the morning, then they practice right away, and then weights mid-morning, then lunch, then they rest a bit, and then they practice again in the evening and then sometimes there's film sessions in between," he shared.
"It's twice-a-day hard training, getting used to the system that's being implemented. I'm sure you saw a lot of the awesome ball movement, how they're moving, everything that they need to do to prepare against Korea and Indonesia on the 18th and the 22nd."
Before entering the FIBA bubble in Clark, Pampanga, Cui said the national team and other competing countries will follow protocols similar to what they went through in the second window of the qualifiers in Bahrain last November.
"As far as protocol is concerned, there's going to be a round of RT-PCR tests before we enter the bubble. This is similar to how we did it in Manila to Bahrain, like a number of days before we even leave, we have to take RT-PCR tests," Cui explained. "And then when we get inside the bubble, we have to do another RT-PCR test to ensure that everyone is okay. Same also for the countries coming in."