A lot has happened in five years.
Back in January 2018, roughly a month after the Philippines won its bid to host the 2023 FIBA World Cup, Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes named 23 young hoopers whom he wanted in the national program in an attempt to launch a five-year preparation for the global hoops tourney.
That special list of players came to be known as 23 for 2023.
The list had guards who are now or have been in the PBA like Cjay Perez, Matt Nieto, and Paul Desiderio, or those who are making names outside the country like Juan Gomez De Liaño and Filipino-American Remy Martin.
The 23 names also included Japan B.League standouts like Kai Sotto, Dwight Ramos, Thirdy Ravena, Carl Tamayo, Robert Bolick, and also Kobe Paras who used to play in the Land of the Rising Sun.
More PBA talents like Javee Mocon, Arvin Tolentino, Isaac Go, and Abu Tratter also cracked the young pool back then.
Rounding out the list were capable hoopers in various levels, like AJ Edu, J-Jay Alejandro, Kenneth Tuffin, Jeo Ambohot, Joshua Sinclair, Kemark Carino, Will Gozum, and Troy Rike.
On Tuesday night, Gilas released its 21-man pool for FIBA’s flagship event that’s set to begin this August. Noticeably, only six players from the 23 for 2023 selection are left standing, namely Perez, Ravena, Ramos, Tamayo, Edu, and Sotto.
What does that say? Two things, basically.
First, new talents developed in ways that made it almost impossible to exclude them in the current pool. Such is the case with 2021 PBA MVP Scottie Thompson, rising star Jamie Malonzo, and Korean Basketball League champion Rhenz Abando, to name a few.
Second, a number of the players in the 23 for 2023 struggled in their respective careers. And it didn’t help that they didn’t go through any actual long-term developmental training with Gilas. Their growth slowed down, and an exclusion from the national squad naturally followed. There are exceptions to the rule like Bolick. While the former San Beda Red Lion continued his ascent, a call-up for him was deemed unnecessary. Perhaps Coach Chot is now in need of guards with a totally different skill set.
Some of the other notable omissions include the Paras, Martin, and de Liaño. Paras underwhelmed when he turned pro, and found himself out of the Japan B. League after two seasons. Even coach Rajko Toroman took notice of this disappointing arc for the high flyer. Martin on the other hand, had some eligibility issues with FIBA, and a possible stint with Gilas just fizzled out. As for JGDL, trying his luck out with Lithuanian pro team BC Wolves may have drove him further away from wearing the Gilas blue.
Gilas 23 for 2023 was never meant to be a final list. But it still would’ve been nice to see some of the players there to have stayed the course and possibly make the actual roster that will compete in the game’s grandest stage.
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