Friday, August 19, 2011

Dondon Hontiveros pulls out of Smart Gilas

Source : Reynaldo Belen, InterAKTV

A day after seeing most of its best amateur players apply for the PBA draft, the SMART-Gilas Pilipinas national team was stung by news that Dondon Hontiveros, who has been on loan from the Air 21 Express, is leaving the team.

Hontiveros, a veteran international campaigner who has represented the Philippines in top flight Asian competition in 2002 and 2007, will no longer play in next month’s FIBA-Asia tournament in Wuhan, China.

Allan Gregorio, the team manager of Air 21, confirmed the news to InterAKTV, saying Hontiveros’ action was “a personal decision.”

“He told me he wants to focus on his career in the PBA,” Gregorio wrote in a text message.

SMART-Gilas coach Rajko Toroman said he had spoken to Hontiveros and even tried to convince the player to stay with the squad.

“He thinks he has health issues and he feels tired from the games that he played. I tried to convince him to stay because he is a player with great character and he is a good player,” added Toroman.

A source who requested anonymity said Hontiveros had skipped the last two practices of the squad, instead opting to rest his body, probably from the “wear and tear.”

Already 34, the 6-foot-2 deadshot is coming off a stint with SMART-Gilas in the Jones Cup tournament, where the team played a grueling schedule of nine games in nine days.

Asi stays

SMART-Gilas’ other reinforcement from the PBA, meanwhile, has no plans of leaving the squad. Ryan Gregorio, who coaches Taulava as Meralco and who recently joined Toroman’s SMART-Gilas coaching staff, said the 6-foot-9 center will stay until with the squad after the Wuhan tournament.

“He has been practicing religiously,” said Gregorio. “That is proof enough he wants to help the team.”

Three more PBA players — Kelly Williams, Jimmy Alapag, and Ranidel de Ocampo of Talk ‘N Text — are scheduled to join SMART-Gilas in China. The three would have joined the national team earlier, but opted to help the Tropang Texters try to win a PBA Grand Slam.

Reyes or Fonacier?

With Hontiveros’ departure, Toroman said that they are looking at another PBA player to take the guard’s spot.

“Someone from Talk ‘N Text, for sure,” Toroman wrote in a text message.

Jason Castro, the energetic guard who won the 2011 PBA Most Improved Player award, would have been a prime candidate for the spot, but he suffered a knee injury that will cause him to miss the rest of the Tropang Texters’ season.

Other elite guards on the Talk ‘N Text lineup include Ryan Reyes and Larry Fonacier.

Reyes, a rugged player who can play both guard positions, was a member of the national team that competed in the 2009 FIBA-Asia tournament, but he missed the competition because of an injury.

Fonacier, on the other hand, is one of the best shooters in the PBA.

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