MANILA, JULY 17, 2007
(STAR) By Nelson Beltran - National coach Chot Reyes is hard-pressed to name the final roster of the SMC-Team Pilipinas with two injured players on the mend and two more still to complete the needed travel documents for the FIBA-Asia Olympic qualifier in Tokushima, Japan from July 28-Aug. 5.

Fil-Am ace Gabe Norwood has yet to complete all the necessary papers for the trip while Kelly Williams, another Fil-Am, applied for a Philippine passport only last Friday despite being cleared earlier by the Bureau of Immigration and the Department of Justice.

Danny Seigle and James Yap, meanwhile, are still hurting nine days before the team’s scheduled departure for Japan.

“We’re still in the same situation as couples of days ago. It’s hard to announce the lineup because of many variables. I just can’t do it even if the players themselves want to know it now,” said Reyes.

But judging the way Reyes used his players in the Jones Cup and in the Manila Invitationals, those who are shoo-ins in the team are Asi Taulava, Jimmy Alapag, Mark Caguioa, Dondon Hontiveros, Jayjay Helterbrand, Kerby Raymundo, Eric Menk, Mick Pennisi and Williams.

Seigle missed the Jones Cup and the Manila Invitationals but he’s likely to be the team’s top gun in Tokushima. He said his injury is nothing serious.

Norwood is also a cinch for the team if only he could obtain an RP passport in time. Otherwise, Tony dela Cruz is expected to get his slot.

The last berth is a toss-up between Renren Ritualo and James Yap.

Reyes said he can afford to make more adjustments on player combinations as they play Kuwait in a pair of tuneup matches Friday and Saturday.

But whatever lineup he gets from the pool, Reyes is confident they can compete with any team in Tokushima. “We’ll be in full throttle in Japan. With a little stroke of luck, we can win the championship,”said Reyes at the close of the four-nation Manila Invitational where they beat Lebanon for the crown.

“Winning the Manila Invitational is a big thing. It’s a big achievement as we earned it while playing with an incomplete lineup,” said Reyes.

“We won with different guys coming through. The only constant was Jimmy Alapag. But that’s the only position really which we can dominate in the Asian championship. We have to dominate the pointguard spot in Japan,” Reyes also said.

The team is appearing at the Japanese embassy at 3 p.m. this afternoon for interview on its visa application. After a two-day rest, the team is back in practice tomorrow.

“I’ve been almost sleepless for two weeks,” said Reyes after completing a tough grind of 13 games in 14 days in the Jones Cup and the Manila Invitational.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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