Grading Gilas' FIBA-Asia Pool
MANILA, Philippines --- Seventeen players have been named. Seventeen. Of that set, only twelve will make the final roster that will have the honor to accomplish the herculean task of earning a slot in the 2014 FIBA World Cup.
In this post, I’ll be looking at the newly-announced Gilas Pilpinas National Pool, and I’ll try to see how well the players fit in the context of FIBA Asia basketball. Of course, it goes without saying that I don’t presume to have more first-hand knowledge than the Gilas coaching staff. This is also not meant to “advise” them. All these thoughts just come from me, one of FIBA Asia’s most extremely dedicated followers, who just happens to be a little too opinionated for my own good.
The Picks for the Frontline: Marcus Douthit, Sonny Thoss, Japeth Aguilar, June Mar Fajardo, Marc Pingris, Kelly Williams, Ranidel De Ocampo, Greg Slaughter
There are definite no-brainer picks here, of course, like Douthit, Fajardo, De Ocampo, and Slaughter. Douthit and De Ocampo played really well in the 2011 FIBA Asia tourney and 2012 FIBA Asia Cup, and they should be able to translate that into even better play in 2013 without much trouble (save for Douthit’s age). De Ocampo, in particular, seems to have really blossomed, and it’ll be exciting to see how well he can match-up with versatile FIBA Asia power forwards like Arsalan Kazemi, Zhu Fangyu, Kosuke Takeuchi, and Oh Se-Keun.
Fajardo and Slaughter were definite automatic picks, too. Their size and potential are just too good to pass up. Even if one of them fails to make the final cut, just the mere fact they get to practice with such quality talent should really push them closer towards what they’re truly capable of. Personally, however, I’d love to see both behemoths make the final lineup.
Pingris and Williams were not that shocking. Coach Chot Reyes has always coveted Pingris’ tenacity and nose for the ball, but I really worry about his size. At just 6’4, he will really have it tough competing with the trees of FIBA Asia. Again, I don’t doubt his heart, only his size. Williams gets in by virtue of his sheer athleticism and mounds of experience. His first taste of the FIBA Asia tourney was way back in 2007, also with coach Chot. He missed the cut in 2009, but came back strong in 2011 as Gilas finished 4th.
The surprises for me are Thoss and Aguilar. Thoss, for one, didn’t really impress, at least stats-wise, in the 2012 Jones Cup and FIBA Asia Cup. He normed just 2.1ppg, and 3.1rpg in 15 games – a little too shabby for a back-up slotman. Perhaps his spot could have been given to someone else like Arwind Santos (with the San Miguel group’s permission pending). Aguilar is also a bit of a surprise not because of his skill set (his skills are actually perfect for FIBA Asia ball), but mainly because of his colorful, if not tumultuous, history with coach Chot. As recently as a week ago, coach Chot went on Twitter to castigate Aguilar for demanding more playing time. Well, at least now he just might get it with Gilas. Aguilar’s combination of size, mobility, and athleticism is unprecedented in Philippine basketball, and he should have a more than fair chance of making the final roster.
The Picks for the Wings: Gary David, Jeff Chan, Gabe Norwood, Jared Dillinger, Larry Fonacier
This is the area that contains picks with which I am most comfortable. Norwood and Dillinger provide great size at the 3 spot and both are versatile enough to play either guard spot, too. My only beef with both guys is I hope they can really sharpen their sights. Those threes have to fall more consistently. I have to say, though, that, as good as Dillinger is, perhaps someone with a bit more FIBA Asia experience would have been slightly better – someone like Marcio Lassiter (again, pending the San Miguel group’s permission).
Speaking of threes, that’s where David, Chan, and Fonacier come in. David and Chan are probably the two streakiest shooters in the PBA outside of James Yap, while Fonacier, in contrast, is more of a steady sniper. Keeping three gunners for now gives coach Chot the luxury of seeing which ones 1) are most consistent with their shot, 2) need less time to “heat up,” and 3) can actually play catch-up defense when faced with the other deadly shooters across the continent.
The Picks for the Point: LA Tenorio, Jason Castro, Ryan Reyes, Jimmy Alapag
With the exception of Tenorio, it’s an all TNT crew. That reality isn’t so surprising, since Castro, Reyes, and Alapag are all familiar with the system coach Chot is bound to use in the FIBA Asia tourney.
Like Douthit and De Ocampo, Tenorio and Castro are no-brainers, too. Tenorio showed his skill with the dribble-drive and the two-man game when Gilas captured the 2012 Jones Cup, and though he was bottled up a bit in the 2012 FIBA Asia Cup, he should still be an effective back-up in the coming wars.
Yes, that’s right. LA is the back-up here. Make no mistake, this is Castro’s time to shine. The man who has been maybe the best all-around PG in the PBA for the past 2 years is finally donning a Pilipinas men’s NT jersey. His propensity to blow by the opposition and set himself or his teammates up for quick scores is going to be a main feature of Gilas Pilipinas, and I’m really excited to see him go head-to-head with the likes of Mahdi Kamrani, Ali Mahmoud, Yang Dong-Geun, and Ryota Sakurai.
I have to be honest, I didn’t really expect both Reyes and Alapag to be named in the pool. This is more so with Reyes, who, despite being a good shooter, slasher, and defender, has no FIBA Asia experience whatsoever. One could argue Reyes is a combo guard who can shift to the SG position, but that would mean he’d be undersized against guys like Hamed Afagh, Cho Sung-Min, or Erfan Ali Saeed. Alapag, too, is a bit of a shocker even though he’s been a veteran campaigner. He saw action both in the 2007 and 2011 FIBA Asia tourneys. He’s now 35 years old, so perhaps he’s just here for a mentor’s role. Having said that, however, he’s a pretty streaky shooter, too, so that just might get him a ticket to the final lineup. Some other guys I thought would have also deserved spots are JV Casio and Niño Cañaleta, though, obviously, Cañaleta is a wing player.
In the end, I believe coach Chot’s job of choosing just 17 guys out of the deep talent pool we have in the PBA was definitely unenviable. No matter whom he chose (I can see the James Yap and Mark Caguioa fans up in arms now), he probably already knew he’d get flak. This is why I admire him. Coaching the Philippine NT may seem like a position of great stature for many, but it’s really a position of great pressure.
Overall, coach Chot’s picks were very intelligent, and I believe in him enough to know he chose players who were willing to fit themselves into his system. These are the seventeen players who will sacrifice the greatest to once again carry our country’s name and pride into the bastions of basketball glory.