FIBA World Cup

Strength of the pack: Chot Reyes expects entire Gilas frontline to collectively control Towns

JR Isaga

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Strength of the pack: Chot Reyes expects entire Gilas frontline to collectively control Towns

DOMINANT DOMINICAN. Dominican Republic center Karl-Anthony Towns poses for a photo in a team photoshoot


Gilas Pilipinas is throwing its entire front court arsenal at NBA star Karl-Anthony Towns as the host nation faces the Dominican Republic in the first game day of the 2023 FIBA World Cup

MANILA, Philippines – Outside of Team USA in the 2023 FIBA World Cup, few other teams can confidently boast that they have some of the world’s best basketball players, and the Dominican Republic is one of them with star center Karl-Anthony Towns.

To say that the three-time NBA All-Star is a big boost to the Caribbean nation is an understatement, and Gilas Pilipinas – the Dominicans’ first World Cup opponent – is more than aware of that fact by now.

Gilas head coach Chot Reyes admitted that keeping Towns in check right out of the gate will quite literally be a tall task, but he’s confident that his frontline of June Mar Fajardo, Kai Sotto, AJ Edu, and captain Japeth Aguilar are ready to keep the Minnesota Timberwolves anchor on his toes all night long.

“Even if the game has gone the opposite way [being guard-oriented], I think having an inside presence is still very, very important because every team we’ll face is going to have a strong and tough inside guy,” Reyes said. “And there’s nobody tougher than the big guy that we’re playing in the first game.”

“That’s going to be the role and value of our frontline. I don’t think it’s physically possible for any single person on our team and perhaps even in the entire World Cup to stop Karl-Anthony Towns one-on-one.”

After being absent from national team duty for the last 11 years, the now-27-year-old has grown by leaps and bounds as one of the NBA’s most complete offensive studs, threatening defenses as both a lethal post-presence and a pinpoint sniper from long range.

“It’s going to take a village to beat them, to stop him, and Dominican because that’s not a one man team that we’re playing tomorrow. The initial job is going to fall on the front line. That’s how important they’re going to be.”

Prior to his injury-riddled 2022-2023 season, Towns completed one of his most well-rounded campaigns in 2021-2022, averaging 24.6 points on 53% shooting, 41% from three, 9.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.1 blocks, and 1 steal.

Safe to say, World Cup opponents can expect the same or even better levels of efficiency from the 6-foot-10 pivot, and the Gilas bigs will surely have their hands full come tip-off at 8 pm in the sprawling Philippine Arena in Bulacan province.

“I always like to say, the strength of the wolf is the pack in the same manner that the strength of the wolf is the pack,” Reyes continued. “It’s not going to be only about Jordan [Clarkson]. It was not only about Andray [Blatche] before. Very different dynamics in the competition, very different teams we’re playing.”

Gilas captain Aguilar likewise is keeping a simple approach with Towns, letting the feel of the debut game come to them instead of worrying about things out of their control.

“Like what coach Chot said, it’s not just me but also my teammates who are defending KAT. It takes a village to stop him and the whole Dominican Republic,” he said.

“We will find out when the game starts. We can then talk about the x’s and o’s. We’ll never know until the game starts.” –

FIBA World Cup 2023: Teams to watch

FIBA World Cup 2023: Teams to watch

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