After placing second in the FIBA Asia tournament last year, the Philippines earned their spot in the World Cup. It made this basketball-crazy country proud, knowing the gravity of the achievement; participating in the World Cup will be the first time the Philippines will do so since 1978. Beating Korea to qualify only makes it sweeter, as they have tormented the Philippines in a number of tournaments in recent history.
In preparation for their campaign in Spain, Gilas Pilipinas joined the Asian Cup in Wuhan, China, held a training camp in Miami, and have recently arrived in Spain. Coach Chot Reyes has not been shy in expressing to everyone the possibility that the 12-man team who won silver in the FIBA Asia will possibly not be the same contingent who will play in Spain.
From the original 12, they added big man Beau Belga (who was the last to be cut in the original 12), versatile swingman Jared Dillinger (a favorite to be included but met an unfortunate accident that kept him out of the team), and a rising PBA star in Paul Lee. With his inclusion in the Wuhan games, Globalport’s Jay Washington has also been added to the mix. Unfortunately, one of the original 12, Larry Fonacier, won’t be able to join the team as he has to deal with a variety of injuries.
As the games get closer, Coach Chot nears the day that he needs to decide his final 12 for Spain. As a basketball fan like you and many others in the Philippines, I have a wishlist of the final 12 who I’d like to represent the country for the tournament. That said, here are my thoughts on the current pool, and the players who I think should make it:
(Marked with * are who I think should be cut)
I think despite the deep pool we have at the point, it would be best to limit them to three if only to compete in size to some degree. Having able ball handlers on the wings would help compensate for this.
1. Jimmy Alapag, PG
The captain of the team, Alapag has provided the leadership on and off the floor in every Philippine team he has joined. Though he arguably isn’t as explosive as he was some years back, Alapag’s calming presence is essential for the team. He’s not going to lead the team in scoring, but he’ll certainly have the guts to pull off the big shots like he did against Korea, and the countless times before that.
2. Jason Castro, PG/SG
The “Best Point Guard In Asia” must certainly have a spot in the roster, right? Castro wasn’t given the monicker “The Blur” for nothing. Watching him in person makes you believe that there is actually a delay from what you see through your eyes and what your body can do. He’s a deadly slasher, and has developed a pretty decent outside shot.
3. Paul Lee, PG/SG
After having seen him play in college and now in the PBA, I have no doubt that Lee has no fear in taking shots that matter. After Wuhan, those who don’t know him much were given a glimpse of that fact. He’s a good slasher, but probably not as good as Castro. He’s a good shooter, though probably not as accurate as Alapag. One thing he’s good at, though, is defending people bigger than him. He’s a deceptively strong low post defender, an ability he can utilize when facing big guards who think they’re at an advantage.
*LA Tenorio, PG
Tenorio is probably one of the best point guards in the PBA. His playmaking ability has carried his teams to success from the amateur ranks up to the pros. However, if we’ll be faced with long defenders, having four point guards in the roster will probably be disadvantageous for us. He’s as qualified to be in the team as he was when he was included in 2013, but it seems that his specialty can be replaced by either of the first three guards in the pool.
Speed is a key weapon for the Philippines in international competitions. The wingmen should help in pushing the pace on offense and provide length on defense.
4. Gabe Norwood, SG/SF
Long, athletic, and heady, Norwood is a favorite to be included in the roster. He can handle the ball as he does for Rain Or Shine in the PBA on occasion, and he can play off the ball. He may not be a “star” player, but he’s a very very good player who fulfills his role effectively on both ends of the court.
5. Jared Dillinger, SG/SF
Think Gabe Norwood in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship, but with more muscle. Dillinger’s handles may be shaky at times, but he’ll provide length on defense and an attacking mentality on offense. He can be active on the boards and can run in transition.
6. Jeffrei Chan, SG/SF
One of the deadliest shooters in the PBA, Chan has developed the confidence to slash through the lanes. He’s a natural lefty, which makes him difficult to defends sometimes especially for those who don’t know him. He’s a spotty defender, but he can play around team defensive schemes, especially if he’s not the focal point of the offense.
7. Jay Washington, SF/PF
The former first overall draft pick in the PBA in 2005 has been with several teams with the pro league already, but hasn’t really dominated as much as people expected him to. He has the tools for it, though. Standing at 6’8″ and weighing 250 lbs., he’s just 10 lbs. lighter than some guy named LeBron James from the USA. He has a wide skillset on the court, and when his head’s in the game, could be a dominant player for any team. Gaining experience in Spain could unleash his potential.
To be continued.