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MANILA, Philippines – Lack of size was once the Philippine team’s biggest dilemma. Now, with the availablity of big men June Mar Fajardo and Greg Slaughter, size still poses a problem, albeit a better one.
Gilas Pilipinas head coach Tab Baldwin pointed out that while the addition of the 6-foot-10 Fajardo and the 7-foot Slaughter certainly bodes well for Gilas Pilipinas, it does not necessarily come without potential disadvantages.
“It’s nice to have them there. We’ll have to see what the mix of players looks like once we get further down the road,” the American-Kiwi coach explained. (IN PHOTOS: Fajardo, Slaughter lead Gilas pool’s first practice for OQT)
“There is some question mark about how good we can be as a Philippine basketball team if we’re slowed down by a lot of size as opposed to how good are we if we can be really fast, really quick, really aggressive, and really athletic,” he added.
Fajardo and Slaughter are among 17 players the PBA lent to the national team as it tries to salvage a 2016 Rio Olympics berth at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) by July next year.
If Baldwin’s predicament a few months ago was trying to build with very limited materials, now he must select the best combination of players from an abundance of options.
“Those questions are there and they will be answered in time,” Baldwin said. “It’s up to June Mar and Greg to make sure that they give us the benefit of their size without slowing us down too much.”
The towering behemoths were not part of the Gilas 3.0 team that failed to gain an outright Olympics berth at the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship as they settled for a silver medal.
Reigning back-to-back PBA MVP Fajardo, who was part of Gilas 2.0 for the 2013 FIBA Asia and 2014 FIBA World Cup, was supposed to be included in the 2015 squad but was hampered by a nagging foot injury.
Slaughter is dominating the ongoing 2016 PBA Philippine Cup early on, averaging over 27 points and 20 rebounds in Barangay Ginebra’s first 3 games.
Fajardo even admitted being impressed by his old collegiate rival in Cebu.
“Impressive,” the soft-spoken San Miguel center said. “He just needs to keep doing what he’s doing.”
Baldwin, who led the first of about 25 once-a-week Gilas Pilipinas practices on Monday night, November 9, is eyeing to stay close to the system he established with Gilas 3.0 but with the welcome addition of more firepower.
“(It will be) similar to what we did with 3.0, we probably just have a few weapons here,” he explained. “We have the potential for a stronger inside game with this team. We’ve got a couple of more proven shooters. More weapons, bigger guns. That’s what we want.”
Baldwin and the Philippine basketball federation will name the final 12-man line-up, including naturalized players, from the 17-man pool.
Naturalized Filipino big man Andray Blatche is currently playing in the Chinese Basketball Association. Fil-Am guard Jordan Clarkson is playing in the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers and his Gilas participation is still up in the air. (READ: Clarkson promises ‘road to redemption’ with Gilas in 2016)
“We’re a long way away from that,” Baldwin said of his plans for Blatche.
“Let’s understand that this group requires some cuts before we have a group of players to join Andray and I’ll use Jordan’s name because we don’t know. It’d be wonderful if he could be part of this group but we don’t know. Those things are off in the future somewhere.” – Rappler.com