Chot Reyes Gilas

FILE – Chot Reyes. Photo by Tristan Tamayo/

Chot Reyes has felt pressure before—in the PBA, the Fiba World Cup and all its qualifying events—and swears that what he’s feeling right now three weeks before the 31st Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) in Hanoi, Vietnam, “is right there” with the others.

“This (winning the SEAG gold medal) is something that the country expects,” Reyes told the Inquirer over the phone, minutes before starting Gilas Pilipinas practice at Moro Lorenzo gym on Tuesday night. “This is pressure-packed, to say the least.”

Reyes has a 16-man pool to work with and says that he is “very pleased with the progress” of the team that will be listed as the overwhelming favorite to retain the gold in Hanoi.

But like in any other team—national or otherwise—that he has handled before, this squad also has its problems.

“We’re doing OK, except for the injury to Japeth [Aguilar] and Matthew [Wright] failing to come in on time because he’s stuck in Canada after getting COVID,” Reyes said. “And the guys from Japan aren’t here yet, like Thirdy [Ravena] and Dwight [Ramos]. Their last games there would be on May 8.”

The Philippines has been the undisputed basketball force in the region, with the country to defend four total titles in Vietnam counting the women’s, and the men and women’s 3X3 squads.

Six-time PBA Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo leads the pool and would definitely form a fearsome front line together with the 6-foot-9 Aguilar and naturalized player Mo Tautuaa.

Reyes, though, is preparing for the worst as Aguilar’s injury hasn’t improved since he helped Barangay Ginebra to the PBA Governors’ Cup recently.

“We’re preparing that we won’t have him [for the Games],” Reyes said as Aguilar hasn’t been able to join the team in practice, which is on its second week.

Meanwhile, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) has yet to submit the final list of players who will carry the important Gilas mission.

“We requested if we can push the deadline a little,” said SBP deputy executive director Butch Antonio during Tuesday’s online Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum.

Reyes and SBP have yet to prune down the pool to its last 12, even though the deadline was set March 12 for submission to the Philippine Olympic Committee. INQ

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