National coach Chot Reyes has put together a full-strength Gilas side to be bannered by returning naturalized player Andray Blatche for matches against Japan on November 24 and Chinese Taipei on November 27 at the start of the qualifiers for the 2019 Fiba World Cup in China.
Familiar faces, led by reigning four-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo and TNT star guard Jayson Castro, showed up on Friday night as Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes got the ball rolling on the Nationals' buildup for a pair of crucial matches against risky Asian rivals late this month.
Save for the greetings to the media that still actually went to the Meralco Gym, the coaching staff and the players revealed nothing regarding their first closed-door practice.
Players from the SMC bloc attended Friday's training.
Aside from Fajardo, 12 other members of the pool showed up on Friday night namely Jayson Castro, Roger Pogoy and Troy Rosario of TNT, Allein Maliksi and Mac Belo of Blackwater, Calvin Abueva and Carl Bryan Cruz of Alaska, Raymond Almazan and Gabe Norwood of Rain or Shine, Japeth Aguilar of Ginebra, Matthew Wright of Phoenix, and Jio Jalalon of Star.
Jalalon, however, is out with a lateral collateral ligament injury, Reyes said.
Blatche, according to Reyes, is set to arrive next week although there are reports that the Xianjing Flying Tigers prior sent him home prior to the start of the Chinese Basketball Association games due to injury.
The "AB" in question is most likely Andray Blatche as it appears that the naturalized center is back to reinforce the national team against Japan in Tokyo on November 24 and against Taipei in Manila on November 27.
Practically the same group composed the Gilas team in the succeeding FIBA Asia Cup except for Blatche and Maliksi who were substituted by Christian Standhardinger and Cruz. The other matches for Gilas are on June 29 against Taiwan and July 2 against Australia.
Seven slots are allotted to Asia for the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China.