JR Cawaling has quit the Smart Gilas program to concentrate on his studies and help Far Eastern University (FEU) win the title next year in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP).

Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) executive director Noli Eala confirmed on Monday that the six-foot-three forward is leaving the national pool, adding that the move was perhaps due to the limited minutes he is expected to get with the entry of pros Asi Taulava, Kelly Williams and Solomon Mercado to the roster.

“Yes. He said he wants to concentrate on FEU next year,” said Eala told the BusinessMirror.

The SBP official admitted that he was saddened with Cawaling’s decision to leave the program but he cannot blame the player as Smart Gilas has started to accommodate professional players from the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) in its Asian Games campaign in Guangzhou, China.

Cawaling was not included in the 12-man lineup submitted by the SBP to the Guangzhou Asian Games Organizing Committee (Gagoc) for the event next month.

His FEU teammate, Aldrech Ramos, was part of the list but he could also be scratched if Gagoc approves the late accreditation of Mercado, Filipino-American Chris Lutz and naturalization candidate Marcus Douthit.

“I guess JR feels he won’t have enough playing time to develop in the Smart Gilas team. The program was made to develop these young players. That’s why I’m sad,” Eala said.

Cawaling and the Tamaraws were swept by Ateneo in the best-of-three championship series of the UAAP men’s basketball tournament, 2-0.

It is also still unknown whether Cawaling will be penalized for quitting the program as these Smart Gilas players are all under contract with the SBP.

“I don’t know with the Smart Gilas management [if Cawaling will be fined]. But I can’t blame JR,” said Eala.

FEU athletic director Mark Molina said Cawaling has not informed the school regarding his decision to leave the Smart Gilas program.

Cawaling was the fourth member of the team to leave the program since it was formed early last year after Rabeh Al-Hussaini, RJ Jazul and Rey Guevarra who all applied for the Rookie Draft in August and are now playing in the PBA.

The others in the roster for the Asiad are JV Casio, Mark Barocca, Marnel Baracael, Greg Slaughter, Dylan Ababou, Aldrech Ramos, Marco Lassiter, Chris Tiu and Japeth Aguilar, a pro who is on loan to the national team. (above photo via tamarawbayan.com)

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