MANILA, Philippines — Matt Nieto and Dave Ildefonso won’t be able to join Gilas Pilipinas in the continuation of the Fiba Asia Cup Qualifiers and the Fiba Olympic Qualifying Tournament due to injuries they suffered during training in Calamba.
Nieto sustained a broken hand after it accidentally got caught up in a teammate’s jersey while Ildefonso suffered a deep bone bruise that would need him to undergo rehabilitation.
The injuries will sideline Nieto and Ildefonso for the rest of the month with Gilas program director Tab Baldwin expecting both to return to the team in July.
Baldwin said losing Nieto is a big blow to the team’s chemistry with the Ateneo guard serving as a vocal leader for the group.
“Matt is not 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’s a fierce competitor who hates to lose and that’s contagious in a team environment. We have other players who are competitive but they don’t have quite the drive and they don’t have the contagious nature that Matt has,” said Baldwin.
Nieto has played in three of Gilas’ games in the Asia Cup Qualifiers and has averaged 6.0 points, 1.7 rebounds, and a team-best 4.7 assists.
Ildefonso, meanwhile, logged 3.5 points a game in his two outings in the qualifiers.
“We miss both of them. We miss their talent and experience. We miss the fact that they give us chemistry with all the other players,” said Baldwin.
“Fortunately, there aren’t more injuries. In today’s world, after these guys sat out much of 2020 and didn’t get a lot of basketball, we’re pretty fortunate we didn’t get more injuries. Knock on wood there wouldn’t be anymore.”
Nieto’s absence opened up a spot for RJ Abarrientos and SJ Belangel to step in but Baldwin hopes that it’s not only the numbers that would be replaced but also the leadership the Ateneo guard left.
“SJ and RJ are both grooming themselves. They’ve both accepted the role of being leaders,” said Baldwin.
“With Dwight Ramos, it’s still a wish for us. He still has a personality that isn’t vocally oriented and it’s got to change. It’s a drum we’ve been beating, he’s changing slowly so it is what it is. He knows that’s his job. There are guys who are going to do the job but they won’t do it the way Matt did it.”
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