April 5 ------ IN an interview with the Inquirer on Wednesday where he talked about Remy Martin's decision to declare for the NBA Rookie Draft, Chot Reyes revealed in passing Gilas Pilipinas' interest in the Fil-Am guard even before he joined Arizona State in the US NCAA. The former national coach bared that Martin was among the Fil-foreign players he had eyed for the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, which was staged just weeks after Gilas' return stint in the 2014 Fiba World Cup in Seville, Spain. “I saw him even before he went to Arizona, he was still very young then. And I knew that he would have been a solid player for Gilas and a future NBA talent," Reyes told the Inquirer. “Like the others that were supposed to be on that team, he (Martin) was very interested to play for the Philippines."
Intrigued by the revelation, we called up the former Gilas coach who confirmed that since the World Cup and the Asiad were only weeks apart, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas plan was really to put up two separate teams for the two tournaments. “It wouldn’t have been a good idea to bring that World Cup team to Korea because the players are already tired," he said. Reyes was quick to check himself, saying that the cat-quick Martin wasn't part of the targeted Asian Games lineup but the '23 for 23' pool that was then formed in the buildup for the 2023 Fiba World Cup which the country will co-host with Japan and Indonesia. "We had our eyes on Martin early but he was not part of that group as he was still too young then," said Reyes, correcting his recollection.
But the group that was left remained as formidable, with Jordan Clarkson, the Fil-Am guard now with the Utah Jazz, supposed to be joined by Christian Standhardinger (then still based in the US), Stanley Pringle, Jason Brickman, Maverick Ahanmisi, Andray Blatche, Mo Tautuaa, and Stephen Holt, another Fil-Am standout in the US NCAA. As proof, Reyes showed as a photo in page 49 of the book '11 Days in August,' which was actually the whiteboard in his old office where the names of these players were listed under the column 'AG.' "AG stands for Asian Games," said Reyes. "I wrote that in 2012." The middle column, the multi-titled coach said, was the players in the national team to the 2017 Fiba Asia Championship in Tokushima, Japan while the third column were the players eyed for the Jones Cup. "Tuloy-tuloy [ang program na] 'yan hanggang 23 for 23 until ...," Reyes said.
Why the Asiad? Well, the Asian Games' eligibility rules were far more lax than those of Fiba, which mandates that players with dual citizenships should've acquire the passport of the country they want to represent before turning 16. In contrast, the Asiad only requires passports from players. Reyes and the SBP, however, were forced to change course when organizers of the Incheon Games insisted on implementing a three-year residency rule, leaving all the aforementioned players, as well as naturalized player Blatche, ineligible. "We did not pursue [the plan] anymore coz we found out very early they were ineligible," said the five-time PBA Coach of the Year. "We focused on getting approval for Blatche. And we did. Fiba gave its approval pero ayaw talaga ng host."
Asked if Gilas was singled out by the sudden rules change, Reyes said: "I think their rule was directed towards Blatche, more than anything." "SBP tried until the last minute [to have the three-year residency rule lifted]. We gave up with one week or so to go, that was why we were forced to go with [longtime naturalized player Marcus] Douthit." As we all know, the SBP sent a Gilas team culled from the lineup that competed in the Fiba World Cup just weeks earlier, reinforced by Douthit. That side finished seventh in a tumultuous Asiad campaign. Weeks later, Reyes was out as Gilas coach. As for the Fil-foreign players eyed for that 2014 Asiad, most of them eventually played for Gilas: Clarkson in the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia under Yeng Guiao, Tautuaa in the 3x3 competition of the last Southeast Asian Games, and Standhardinger and Pringle in the Fiba World Cup qualifiers. Reyes, however, was certain these players would have made a huge impact had that grand Asiad plan of 2014 pushed through. "Super," he said.