MANILA, JUNE 1, 2007
(STAR) By Nelson Beltran - The Philippine team buildup for the FIBA-Asia Olympic qualifier is on track despite being hard-pressed for time as the team’s management committee gave coach Chot Reyes its full support, including training and tune-up tournament in Belgrade and tapping additional personnel.

The committee, which met yesterday following the Nationals’ sweep of the SEABA tourney that assured RP a berth for the Tokushima qualifier, approved Reyes’ plans to send the team to Belgrade and compete in the Jones Cup in Taipei as well as make minor changes on the team.

Fil-Am Kelly Williams and US collegiate product Gabe Norwood are being considered to replace Rico Villanueva and Tony Dela Cruz for the Belgrade training although it would be subject to approval by Sta. Lucia in the case of Williams and completion of travel documents on Norwood’s part.

Villanueva has joined San Miguel after a trade with Rommel Adducul while Dela Cruz will stay in Manila but will remain as a member of the team pool and will not be allowed to return to the Alaska fold.

Two other PBA standouts — Willie Miller and Marc Pingris, who’s about to be reactivated from the injury list by Purefoods – are also mentioned as among candidates for the FIBA-Asia championship in Tokushima, Japan two months from now.

PBA commissioner Noli Eala, a member of the management committee, said the RP team would go to Japan with all-out support from the committee.

“The committee is in full support of the RP team and its programs. We’re going to do everything to help the team prepare well for the Japan war,” said Eala.

“The management has decided that if we go to war, we go armed to the teeth. If we lose, we lose doing our best,” Eala added.

Red Bull has offered its team physician John Lim and Eala has suggested nutritionist Sanirose Orbeta to help the team which is now on the final stage of its preparation for a daunting task to gain berth in the Beijing Olympics next year.

Reyes has convinced the committee that their Belgrade training is necessary although their Qatar trip has been scrapped. Instead, the Nationals are booked for the Jones Cup (July 2-10) after their Belgrade jaunt (June 12-20).

“The committee was thinking conditioning and training may be done here but coach Chot justified the Belgrade trip. He said they’re to stay in a sports hotel with facilities not only for the game but also for conditioning. He said Belgrade will address concern on physical training,” said Eala.

In between the Belgrade trip and the Jones Cup, the Nationals are to play the South Koreans possibly in a pair of exhibition matches here.

Then after the Jones Cup, the country is hosting a four-nation tourney with the RP team to be pitted against China, Syria and either Iran or Lebanon.

The other members of the committee are PBA chairman Ricky Vargas, vice chairman Tony Chua, San Miguel top official Robert Non and BAP-SBP executive director Patrick Gregorio.

On the suggestion to strengthen the composition of the coaching staff, Reyes said coaches Tim Cone, Jong Uichico, Binky Favis and Norman Black are still members of the team.

Cone, Uichico and Favis are to join the RP team training trips depending on their availability but they are expected to come in full force to be with Reyes in the Tokushima qualifier.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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