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Gilas Pilipinas Assessment at the FIBA Asia Cup

Coming to Wuhan for the FIBA Asia Cup, Philippine National Head Coach Chot Reyes downplayed his expectations with the squad he carried along embarking on the Gilas’ Program’s 1st major phase of preparations in the buildup to the FIBA World Cup showpiece in Spain this coming August to September. The goals he set was very simple: get the new guys in the pool the feel of competing against other countries playing under and accustomed to FIBA rules and get themselves familiar with each other. That was the primary target. The he, together with his coaching staff can then evaluate the team’s roster and composition for the Worlds. He also tagged top cadets Garvo Lanete and Kevin Alas to get other players their much needed rest after their PBA series. As he stated in previous interviews, we would have to keep our cards close to our chest. Decisions have to be done multi-purposely. Prevent our guns from getting scouted and let the future generation of Pinoy cagers get the experience they could hardly get. It was for the long-term plans of the program.

Among his concerns were these: (1) how the latest additions will blend in with the mainstays and mesh with the system and; (2) how would they respond when faced with superior adversity. Inserting the likes of Paul Dalistan Lee & the come-backing Jared Dillinger as well as the streetwise Beau Belga and another stretch 4 in Jay Washington. Just like they said, they were as good as advertised. They practically rose to the challenge. Dalistan-Lee was superb on his debut, most notably. Coming off-the-bench, the Lee-thal Weapon averaged double digit points per game and over 50% 3PT FG shooting on his maiden stint representing the Philippines on an international competition. Not bad for a first-timer. JD gave the opposing teams fits by containing their most-efficient scorers like in the match against Jordan wherein he became Rasheem Wright’s shadow all afternoon. Something we witnessed being done by Gabe Norwood during the FIBA Asia Championships last August. Extra Rice Inc was just as effective as he was in Rain or Shine, a very intimidating force under the rim getting rebounds and dishing out quick, bullet passes inside and out. JayWash did the same thing. Grabbing boards & helping out on defense to contest wing shooters. The bench did what they had to do – which is to provide spark as the second unit. But that’s just it. We never had a strong start other than that of the Chinese-Taipei opener. We were always on foul-trouble. We never found our rhythm all tournament long, so to speak. It was really an eye-opener for us, too. We were literally exposed. Gilas Pilipinas were filled with glaring deficiencies on the court. We were not as ready as we think we are. Having just days together for practice & training drills, the 2nd-place silver medallist Asian nation last FIBA Asia qualifier to the World Cup was not sharp at all.

TOs.

A whopping average of 20 turnovers a game. That’s just might be it. You cannot expect to beat the top-dogs of Asia by being sloppy all-tournament long and commit turnovers as many as this. It killed our campaign. Plain and simple. Again, lack of playing time together as a unit, as a team should be blamed. Miscues & tentativeness were the woes we saw during every sets of transitions. Both forced and unforced errors were the stuff that ****** Coach Chot as he slapped the chairs in the sidelines venting his frustrations out for every wasted possession, by not capitalizing on breaks and our inability to get our acts together on the court. From committing dumb-fouls to firing ill-advised shots. Ugh! Just drives you crazy..

JuneMar Fajardo is still a work in progress.

More of a good sign that of the negative side. Why? Because height can never be taught. Although he’s still learning to adapt to international brand of play which is by the way, less ******* less post-up opportunities for him, he is still, along with GregZilla, are our only legitimate home-grown center down the middle for years to come. Period. He needs time, training and tournament stints like this one to be developed into the most dominant bigman we have ever produced playing to his full potential. We cannot bash him for underperforming despite being awarded MVP in the PBA, just imagine the pressure he already has playing with a chip on his shoulders to be that instant superstar we want him to be. And besides, the guy is only 23 years old. We have yet to see him in his prime and surely, his best years are still ahead of him. This is not like watching DVD where you can always fast-forward to your favourite scene and jump over the dull moments. I, personally believe that if and when JuneMar get to the point where he can taste what it’s like to be a champion, that’s the time he’s going to be appreciated. He needs to get that monkey of his back. And we all just have to wait for that to happen. Hopefully, anytime soon. That’s it. Is he worth the wait? Of course he is! SMC took a gamble on him and so far, they seem to be heading to that direction.

Old legs needs to be retooled.

If that starting five is any indication of what Gilas’ next steps will be, well, it better be for the general welfare of the team. Rumors are swirling around that after their sub-par showing in Wuhan, this could be ‘it’ for L.A. Tenorio, Gary David, Japeth Aguilar & Marcus Douthit as part of Gilas Pilipinas troupe with readily available replacements lurking to fill their slots. With the exception of Ranidel de Ocampo and his poise and strange calmness throughout the ups-and-downs of the tournament, no other player from the original line-up included in Wuhan showed the tenacity they had during the FIBA Asia Championships last year. It is clearly evident that we had no leader on the floor when the team is scrambling from the young Taipei’s rally or when Singapore started drilling long range bombs or when we fought toe-to-toe with Jordan or when India threatened to mount a comeback. Take for instance, Japeth. He was supposedly the veteran and the most senior member of this team along with Marcus being part of the original SMART-Gilas squad assembled way back 2009. He’s given the opportunities he could get. Although played limited minutes, but that’s his role. To spark up the team with his flashy weak-side cuts capped off with a follow up slamdunk. To provide ball screens for the guards and down screens for the wing shooters for them to get clear, open looks outside. To grab every single rebound he could possibly get to at least give Douthit a breather and be the next dominant, formidable force under. Instead, he opts to get the ball outside, then hesitate for a shot, tries to slash in and get whistled for a travelling violation over and over and over again. Jesus! Coach Chot can only manage to just shook and shake his head off in disbelief. El Granada made some impact of his own with all due respect. But you cannot ignore the fact that age will eventually catch up to you no matter how dedicated, how focused, how determined you are, how much sacrificed you’ve engaged yourself in. Maybe that’s the case with him. He can only do so much. Our starting pointguard, the very passionate Tenorio. 6 turnovers in a game at one point. You’re supposed to be the most careful guy out there handling and protecting the ball. You cannot expect them to do this and that if they don’t see it in you, firsthand. If you don’t practice what you preach, forget it. Walk the talk. Start with yourself. And of course, Daddy Douthit. The only thing that needs to be told about him is that he needs the break he rightfully deserves. He’s anchoring Gilas from the start so we better give him a well-deserved rest and let the newly acquired import in the fold to man the fort for us. Thank you Marcus, we would not get this far without your over 1000 points, 500+ rebounds, a hundred assists, blocks and steals in the program’s campaign through the years. You’ve carried us on your back long enough. A Final Four finish in this year’s FIBA Asia Cup is a fitting end for your cause. We appreciate it so much.

Our captain Jimmy Alapag was not there obviously. So who took our stride and stepped up? Yeah. It was only RDO who played consistently. The lone reliable Gilas member who showed up every time we needed a pivotal basket in clutch plays. Thank God we also welcomed the newbie’s aid in Dalistan who nailed crucial makes after another. The breaks of the game simply saved us. Honestly, we were just lucky to win those games.

But when those 2 got covered by the mighty Iran, we were hopeless. There’s no miracle this time. God I suddenly missed the dead-shot Jeff Chan. 50-50 balls. Where are you, Ping? You would have dived-in to get a hold of that ball. Oh my gosh there’s Haddadi in the middle. The Blur would’ve circled around, faked a jumper, leaned towards the basket, (all at the same time) then courageously laying it up against the behemoth -- not avoiding a hard bump or a bigtime rejection whatsoever. Stops. We need defensive stops. How I wish Gabe’s there making a living **** for Iran’s gunners. That would have made a difference.

Well overall, it was not as bad as we think it was. We played valiantly up to the last second. We’ve made efforts to improve but just couldn’t adjust instantaneously. Goals were achieved. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. We are all here to look forward to the next chapter of Gilas Pilipinas.

Laban Pilipinas.. Puso!!

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