Continued from Part 1
*Japeth Aguilar, SF/PF
Aguilar blocked a lot of shots during the FIBA Asia campaign, but that’s what happens when you jump at every shot attempt (and pump fakes) that an offensive player throws up. He’s a physically gifted athlete, probably the best in the pro league. However, there are times that he just wants to do too much too soon. I think he’ll play best at the Small Forward position, but he’ll need to develop his outside shot more. Right now, he can jump through the roof, but that’s all that he’s got going for him. He doesn’t have a go-to post up or mid range game, and he relies too much on his jumping ability on defense. He’s been a project since he stepped on the court for the Ateneo Blue Eagles, a project in the original Smart Gilas program, and remains a project when he returned to the PBA. If he can live up to his potential, he can be one of the best basketball players the country has ever seen. Will Spain be the time that he does?
*Gary David, SG/SF
Remember that game when Gary David’s burning hands torched the BMeg Llamados (now Sanmig Super Coffee Mixers) to upset the first seeded team in that year’s tournament? While people can argue that it was just one game, it actually isn’t the first time that he scored at will. It just got so much attention because of the circumstances they were in. That said, David is an explosive scorer, and those who follow the PBA know that. However, he’s a bit of a liability on defense, which might be one of the factors that could be a reason for him to be cut from the team.
The game of basketball requires people to bang bodies inside the paint to control rebounds. Putting the tough, crafty big men who can compensate for their lack of size by basketball smarts will help defend our lanes.
8. Beau Belga, PF/C
Belga probably won’t make it, but if there would be a last cut, I think it would be between Aguilar, Washington, and Belga. These three players offer different things; Aguilar is the most athletically gifted, Washington is the most rounded player (when his mind isn’t elsewhere), and Belga is the most physical defender in the pool (right up there with Marc Pingris, I think). Belga might be jump the least among the three of them, but 8 out of 10 times, I think he’ll grab the rebound over those two. He can stretch the floor on offense with his world-class pump-fake and shooting range, not to mention his battering ram-like drives. He’s become one of the most hated players in the PBA because of his physical play, but when he plays for your team, you’ll love his passion for the game.
9. Ranidel De Ocampo, PF/C
Rani-Dirk is probably the best power forward in the league today. He has excellent post moves and is a legitimate threat from three point range. He’s an able defender and a great passer. While Coach Chot insists there are no sure slots for the original 12, there is little doubt that Ranidel won’t make it unless he is injured.
10. Marc Pingris, PF/C
While the “Puso” battlecry may sound overused by some, it will never be highlighted enough to describe Pingris’ style of play. This guy plays beyond what is expected of him and literally wills his teams to victory whenever he’s on the floor. Even injuries won’t stop Pingris from donning the national colors for Spain.
11. Andray Blatche, PF/C
We all love Kuya Marcus and everything he did for the national team, but I think Blatche will slide into the naturalized player slot for the Philippines. He’s been known to be a bit of a knucklehead during his time with a young Washington Wizards team led by the colorful Gilbert Arenas. However, there’s no denying the physical gifts and skillset that he has. He has size, a bit of range (he’s a career 47% shooter, which might not be impressive for a big man, but considering he takes most of his shots outside the lane, it’s not that bad), and maybe some handles. If he can keep his goofiness off the court and play up to his potential on the court, he’ll be a valuable player for the Gilas team.
12. Junemar Fajardo, C
The reigning PBA MVP didn’t have the best campaign in the FIBA Asia Championship. However, he won’t gain the experience he needs to get better if he doesn’t compete with world-class athletes. With an MVP award under his belt, he may have more than enough confidence to help the team better in the Spain than he did against our Asian rivals.
*Marcus Douthit, C
When Douthit came to the Philippines, he didn’t have the NBA background that Blatche had. He did have international experience to speak of, but all that didn’t matter if he didn’t want to play for the Philippines. It was one of Douthit’s most impressive characteristics; he loved the Philippines and played like he was born here. He vouched for Blatche’s citizenship, even though he knows that only one of them will get to represent the country in Spain. I firmly believe that if he does need to step back for Blatche, he’ll accept it graciously if he knows that it’ll be the best for the team.
Before anyone goes crazy over this selection and cuts, let me stress once again that this is an opinion from someone who follows the PBA and the Gilas Pilipinas team. It bears no weight on the final decision of the team. As a fan, I could wish to choose who would represent my country.
Who would you like to be part of the Final Gilas 12 for Spain?