Teng rarin’ to suit up for Chooks

By Joaquin Henson

MANILA, Philippines — Two-time UAAP Finals MVP Jeron Teng said yesterday he’s excited to suit up for Chooks To Go under Gilas head coach Chot Reyes at the FIBA Asia Champions Cup in Chenzhou, China, on Sept. 22-30 with the goal of not only contributing to win the crown but also to prepare for his entry into the PBA next season.

“I’m excited,” said Teng who’s applying for the PBA draft on Oct. 29. “It’s a new experience again and I’m looking forward to improve and learn from the Gilas coaches and players.” After leading La Salle to two crowns in five seasons, Teng joined Filoil Flying V in the recent PBA D-League Foundation Cup.

Teng, 23, showed up for the first Chooks practice at the Meralco Gym last Monday. “I’m not really sure who’ll be in the lineup but Kiefer (Ravena), Toto Jose, Carl Bryan Cruz, Jett Manuel, Andre Paras, Bright Akhuetie, some practice players and I were at Meralco,” he said. “Terrence Romeo, Calvin Abueva, Ray Parks and Jayson Castro came but didn’t practice.” Almond Vosotros was excused from practice as he just had a molar tooth removed but attended yesterday.

Reyes called Monday’s sweat session a “pre-practice” as the roster may not be finalized until it’s determined which PBA players may be available from the eliminated teams in the Governors Cup. PBA commissioner Chito Narvasa has given the go-signal for veterans from eliminated teams to be tapped for Chooks if their teams agree.

“We’ll fill up the roster with players whose PBA teams have been eliminated,” said Reyes. The eliminations in the Governors Cup will end Sept. 24. The last four placers will be struck out of the playoffs. At the moment, the bottom four teams are Kia, Phoenix, Alaska and GlobalPort. The Gilas players in the lineups of the four teams are Matthew Wright, Abueva, Cruz and Romeo. The hitch is Alaska and Phoenix are scheduled to play separate opponents in the PBA on Sept. 20 and Kia and GlobalPort on Sept. 22. Chooks will leave for China on Sept. 20.

Under the terms of the MOA between the PBA and SBP, Gilas cadets may be pulled out of their PBA teams 60 days before the start of a major international tournament like the FIBA Asia Cup or any qualifier for the World Cup or Olympics. The first home-and-away window of the FIBA Asia/Pacific qualifiers for the World Cup is on Nov. 20-28, meaning cadets may be enlisted by Sept. 20.

Reyes said in the FIBA Champions Cup, teams are allowed to recruit two imports, whether naturalized or not. Isaiah Austin, a 7-1 center who’s only 23, arrived the other night from the US to take one import slot. The other import slot is for Akhuetie, a Nigerian forward who used to play for Perpetual in the NCAA and is now undergoing residency at UP to gain eligibility in the UAAP. However, Akhuetie’s stint is dependent on whether the UAAP Board of Managing Directors will allow him to play without violating the league rules on residency. A player undergoing residency is restricted to suit up only for his school and the national team. 

Players from the Cignal squad that recently won the PBA D-League Foundation Cup aren’t available for Chooks as they’re seeing action for the NLEX-SCTEX squad at the Merlion Cup in Singapore on Sept. 20-24. Jason Perkins, Oping Sumalinog, Pamboy Raymundo, Jaypee Belencion and Harold Arboleda are among the NLEX-SCTEX players with Maurice Shaw as import. Jojo Lastimosa will coach the team in place of Boyet Fernandez who’s calling the shots for San Beda in the NCAA. Mighty Sports represented the Philippines at the Merlion Cup last year and took second place.

Reyes said he’s still awaiting clearance from California State at Northridge if Kobe Paras, who’s undergoing residency, will be permitted to play for Chooks. So far, the only sure players in the Chooks roster are Ravena, Vosotros, Manuel, Teng, Jose and Austin.

Regarding Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone’s recent pronouncement that size isn’t a problem for Gilas anymore and maybe, it’s time to recruit a 6-7 or 6-8 wing instead of a center as a naturalized import, Reyes asked if both Japeth Aguilar and Greg Slaughter could be released to the national team. “Is Ginebra willing to lend Japeth and Greg at the same time?” wondered Reyes. Only if Aguilar, Slaughter and JuneMar Fajardo are in the Gilas lineup will it make sense to recruit a wing as a naturalized import.

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