Just when the Gilas Pilipinas men were slowly getting their rhythm back in light of the departures of injured players Matt Nieto and Dave Ildefonso, another injury hit the team after team captain Rey Suerte suffered an ankle sprain during Wednesday's practice.
Suerte's availability for the upcoming FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers and the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament is now in doubt given the gravity of the injury.
"The swelling is significant," said Program Director Tab Baldwin. "He was recently designated as our team captain so this is not good news at all. It's unfortunate because he was also doing very well in practice."
The team's resident trainer, Dexter Aseron, narrated that while jumping for a rebound, Suerte miscalculated his landing and added unnecessary weight on his ankle. "By my estimation, it looks like a Grade 2 or 3 sprain so it could take one to two weeks to recover. We're hoping there will be no fractures when he gets his x-ray."
After missing the first game of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers versus Indonesia, Suerte started both games against Thailand. He finished with nine points with 4 out of 8 shooting from the field and added three rebounds, three assists, and a steal during their first meeting.
"Rey has been our captain and eldest member of the team so his maturity has been a stabilizing force in our group. He's also an excellent three-point shooter who has a scorer's mentality so he has become a reliable source of points," explained Baldwin. "We will miss his leadership and scoring punch in the team."
Suerte's injury now leaves Isaac Go and Mike Nieto as the remaining 2019 draftees in the team as Allyn Bulanadi is still recuperating from a shoulder injury. The team, though, has several players ready to step up and fill the void.
"As a national team, you always believe that you have the talent to replace fallen players. We're currently looking at Jordan Heading and Jaydee Tungcab to step into the vacancy left by Rey's injury. Jordan provides excellent shooting and some ball handling skills while Jaydee is an outstanding open court player who is also a tenacious defender," Baldwin closed. "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."