MANILA, Philippines – Matt Nieto and Dave Ildefonso will not be able to join Gilas Pilipinas in the continuation of the Fiba Asian Cup Qualifiers and the Fiba Olympic Qualifying Tournament due to injuries sustained during training in Calamba.
Nieto suffered a broken hand after it was accidentally caught in a teammate’s jersey, while Ildefonso suffered a deep bruise to his bones that forced him to be rehabilitated.
Injuries will sideline Nieto and Ildefonso for the rest of the month, and Gilas program director Tab Baldwin expects both to return to the team in July.
Baldwin said losing Nieto is a huge blow to the team’s chemistry with the Ateneo point guard as the group’s vocal leader.
“Matt isn’t just a vocal leader, he’s not just a tough guy, we really get a lot of our competitiveness as a team from him. He is a fierce competitor who hates to lose and that is contagious in a team environment. We have other players who are competitive, but they don’t have the momentum and they don’t have the contagious nature that Matt has, ”Baldwin said.
Nieto has played in three of Gilas’s games in the Asian Cup Qualifiers and has averaged 6.0 points, 1.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists, the best on the team.
Ildefonso, for his part, recorded 3.5 points per game in his two qualifying outings.
“We miss you both. We miss his talent and experience. We miss the fact that they give us chemistry with all the other players, ”said Baldwin.
“Fortunately, there are no more injuries. In today’s world, after these guys went out of play for much of 2020 and didn’t play much basketball, we are quite fortunate to have no further injuries. Knock on wood, there would be no more. “
Nieto’s absence opened a place for RJ Abarrientos and SJ Belangel to intervene, but Baldwin hopes that not only numbers will be replaced, but also the leadership of the Ateneo’s base.
“SJ and RJ are getting ready. They both accepted the leadership role, ”said Baldwin.
“With Dwight Ramos, it’s still a wish for us. He still has a personality that is not voice-oriented and has to change. It’s a drum we’ve been playing, it’s slowly changing, so it is what it is. You know it’s your job. There are guys who are going to do the job, but they won’t do it like Matt did. “
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