Only six PBA players are expected to compete for roster spots in the 12-man Gilas Pilipinas lineup set to face South Korea and Indonesia in the third and final window of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers in February.
NLEX's Raul Soyud and TNT stars Roger Pogoy and Troy Rosario might be the final pros that will enter the training bubble Friday at Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna.
"As we speak now, there are no other PBA players expected to enter," Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) special assistant to the president Ryan Gregorio said in a text message.
The trio will join CJ Perez, Justin Chua and Kiefer Ravena, who already joined the rest of the young training pool last week.
"We would rather talk about players who are in the bubble rather than players who are not in the bubble," said Gregorio. "The invitation to join Gilas is voluntary in nature. If for some reason the invitee declines, we are automatically moving forward. We respect whatever reason is presented."
A separate source said many from the federation's wish list begged off from competing for a roster spot since they were either abroad or recovering from injuries.
SBP is also working with Kai Sotto's camp in bringing the NBA aspirant on board for the third and final window of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers. It is unclear how long Sotto will undergo quarantine, although IATF protocols state that the 7'3" center will have to isolate for 14 days after flying in from the United States.
"We are still finalizing the timetable. No clear arrival date yet," said Gregorio. "Regarding the quarantine period, we are following strict IATF protocols."
East West Private (EWP), the agency that handles Sotto, said the 18-year-old center has already gotten clearance from the NBA G League to suit up for the national team for the coming window.
"The NBA G League agreed for Kai to meet his previous commitments to play for the National Team," said Maria Espaldon, EWP's chief executive officer. "They have asked that he immediately report back to the bubble after his last national team game."
Another young Gilas standout in Dwight Ramos will fly in next week, making him and Sotto the last two names to join the training bubble.
"Working on Dwight's entry, hopefully sometime next week," said team manager Gabby Cui.
This caps the number of names to 20 hopefuls vying for a slot in the roster manned by head coach Jong Uichico, assistant coaches Norman Black and Caloy Garcia, and program director Tab Baldwin.
Special Gilas draft selections Isaac Go, Rey Suerte and twins Mike and Matt Nieto are also in the mix, as well as Juan and Javi Gomez de Liaño, Justine Baltazar, Dave Ildefonso, Will Navarro, Calvin Oftana, Kemark Cariño, and naturalized player candidate Angelo Kouame.
While it may be a bit premature to ask how a roster from this 20-man pool will fare against South Korea and Indonesia, Gregorio said the coaching staff has done enough to shape and prepare the program's parts for the coming window and beyond.
"I am very satisfied with the progress of the program. Coach Tab has done a tremendous job laying down a solid foundation to ensure the development, in the short-term, medium-term and all the way to 2023, of our players individually and as a team. Coach Jong and all the coaches have exhibited incredible commitment in making sure that the plan is implemented to its tiniest detail," said Gregorio.
"It is too early to assess the strength of the team compared to our opposition because we have not seen our team scrimmage yet and we don't know the composition of South Korea and even Indonesia," he continued. "At this point, we are focused on establishing our basketball culture, working on our teamwork, determining our offensive concepts that would complement our roster players, and strategizing critical defensive schemes that would increase our chances of being successful."