a basketball player in front of a crowd: Suerte, Nieto, Ildefonso in sickbay © UAAP Suerte, Nieto, Ildefonso in sickbay

MANILA, Philippines — Injury-hit Gilas Pilipinas embraces the “Next Man Up” mentality as it wages battle in next week’s FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers in Clark without three key players.

PBA Gilas draftee Rey Suerte, the newly-designated captain of the youth-laden pool, sprained his ankle a few days before the Nationals embark on their campaign in the June 16-20 bubble meet against South Korea and Indonesia.

Suerte, the oldest player in the pool at 26, joined in sickbay Matt Nieto and Dave Ildefonso, who suffered a broken hand and a deep bone bruise on the foot, respectively, last week.

“As a national team, you always believe that you have the talent to replace fallen players,” said Gilas program director Tab Baldwin.

Jordan Heading, the top pick in the Season 46 special Gilas draft, and Jaydee Tungcab, another draftee this year, are tipped to fill in the void.

“Jordan provides excellent shooting and some ball handling skills while Jaydee is an outstanding open court player who is also a tenacious defender,” Baldwin noted.

With skipper Suerte and Nieto in the sidelines, the challenge is for guys like Isaac Go and Nieto’s twin Mike to take charge.

“We are hoping that the impact on the team’s leadership will be minimized by more players stepping up and becoming more vocal, on and off the court,” said Baldwin.

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