Gilas Diaries: The Big Kid

Enzo Flojo

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Rappler catches up with Gilas Pilipinas big man Greg Slaughter and the seven-footer shares about his experiences with the national team.

Photo by Josh Albelda/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines — Marcus Douthit and the ever-improving June Mar Fajardo are the top prospects to man the slot for Gilas Pilipinas in the 2013 Manila FIBA Asia Championships, but there’s someone else to whom we hoop nuts should all pay attention. He’s a big kid at heart – emphasis on the BIG – but deep inside this former Blue Eagle, not to mention two-time UAAP champion, is a warrior.

He is Ohio-born and Virginia-raised, but he is also a warrior for the 7,107 islands he now calls home.

Seven-foot Greg Slaughter is the tallest, perhaps the most imposing, player on the Gilas Pilipinas roster. On paper, he stands about 2 inches taller than Douthit, Fajardo, and the high-flying Japeth Aguilar. When measured against other frontliners like Sonny Thoss, Marc Pingris, Ranidel De Ocampo, and Kelly Williams, Slaughter’s height becomes even more striking.

Let’s not even consider putting him side-by-side with Jimmy Alapag and LA Tenorio, okay? #thatisjustmean

Still, despite his size and his accomplishments in the collegiate and semipro ranks, not a few observers label Greg as “soft.” Some people fear he might turn out to be just another EJ Feihl or Samigue Eman – two guys gifted with a lot of height, but not an ordinate amount of skill or court savvy.

What Greg possesses, however, is some experience playing FIBA Asia hoops.

When Greg first came to the Philippines to play ball, he didn’t go to any of the big Manila programs. Instead, he chose to play at the University of Visayas. Already, he was a star attraction. His performance eventually caught the attention of the handlers of Smart-Gilas Pilipinas back in 2009. He relocated to the capital shortly thereafter and focused on his duties with the national team and, eventually, the Ateneo Blue Eagles.

Quite easily, Greg’s best outing for Gilas was in the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games. A day after losing to South Korea in the quarterfinals, Gilas squared off against North Korea in the consolation bracket. They had to win this game to salvage some pride and battle for 5th place on the last day. Greg scored 18 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in a beastly show of force as Gilas triumphed, 96-69, over NoKor.

I doubt if he will be dropping double-doubles like that in the 2013 tourney, but, who knows, he just might conjure some magic here and there. Of course, several things are going against the 7-footer. For one, he hasn’t played for Gilas since 2010. In fact, his last taste of international play was for the Sinag Pilipinas squad in the 2011 SEA Games, which didn’t exactly offer any tough resistance. This time around, Greg might face the likes of Hamed Haddadi, Yi Jianlian, Kosuke Takeuchi, and Tseng Wen-Ting – just some of the top bigs in the continent.

Of course, that’s IF he makes the team. Douthit is a shoo-in, of course, but it’s Fajardo, Thoss, and maybe Pingris whom Greg will have to fight for maybe just one or two back-up center spots. Thoss and Pingris are seasoned PBAers who are known to be bangers down low. They can defend against bigger adversaries and rebound with the best of ‘em. Fajardo, meanwhile, has seen light-years of improvement in his young PBA tenure. He and Greg may have been pretty much at the same level a year ago, but now it’s clear, at least in the last few practice sessions, that Greg needs some catching up to do.

Speaking of catching up, I caught up with the big fella during Gilas Pilipinas’s sixth practice day this past Monday, and we had the following conversation:

Rappler: So how do you feel about the practices so far? You guys have been practicing for several weeks now, right?

Greg Slaughter: I don’t really know how long it’s been, but the practices have been going really good. Everyone’s really busy, so we aren’t going at it too hard, especially because the PBA schedule is hectic and year-round.

R: You’re going to be part of the PBA pretty soon, too, aren’t you?

GS: We’ll see. Right now I intend to join the PBA Draft in November, but nothing is set in stone yet.

R: How badly do you want to join the Gilas team that will play in the 2013 FIBA Asia, especially since you were also part of the Gilas team back in the 2010 Asian Games with coach Rajko?

GS: Yeah I’ve been part of this program since day 1. It’s going to mean a lot to me, especially since we’ll be playing in front of our countrymen. There’s nothing better than playing for your country, much more now that we’re hosting it. I missed out on the Champions Cup* before, so I really want to make this team.

R: Considering how you’ve played against some great FIBA Asia big men already in your earlier stint with Gilas, what kind of contribution can you make to this team if you are chosen?

GS: Well I know I’m the tallest player here, but I still have a long way to go. I need to transform my body, since most of these pros have already developed their bodies well. I don’t think I’m there yet, so that’s what I would really like to work on.

*The 2011 FIBA Asia Champions Cup was held in the PhilSports Arena.

I’ll give this to the big guy – he is honest enough to admit that he still has a lot to improve to be able to be a major contributor to the team.

It’s that humility and honesty that makes him a “gentle giant,” but it is also through that humility and honesty (coupled with a ton of practice of course) that he can become perhaps the most dominant local 7-footer the Philippine hoops scene has ever seen.

Good luck, big kid. It’s time for some growing up.

#parasabayan –

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