No June Mar Fajardo. No Japeth Aguilar. No Jeff Cheff. No Paul Lee. No Marcio Lassiter.
And, yes, no Jordan Clarkson, too.
To be honest, it’s quite different from the ideal lineup most Filipino basketball fans would probably put together, but that doesn’t mean this team is devoid of talent or is incapable of beating the best teams in Asia.
On the contrary, it has already proven that it can match up pretty well with some top-level Asian teams. Gilas Pilipinas 3.0 recently finished second overall in the 2015 Jones Cup and bagged the championship in the maiden edition of the MVP Cup. Clearly, despite the fact that some of the PBA’s best talents have chosen to sit this one out, the team coach Tab Baldwin has put together has the potential to surprise the opposition.
Andray BLATCHE – 6’11, 29 yrs old
Asi TAULAVA – 6’9, 42 yrs old
Sonny THOSS – 6’7, 33 yrs old
Ranidel DE OCAMPO – 6’6, 33 yrs old
Marc PINGRIS – 6’5, 33 yrs old
- Blatche and De Ocampo are capable of stretching the defense and luring opposing big men to the perimeter with their three-point shooting. Even at his rotund state, Blatche should also remain among the most athletic big men in FIBA Asia. Blatche, though, is our only player standing taller than 6’9. That shouldn’t be much of a problem against similarly-sized teams, but when we face Iran and perhaps if we face China as well, we will certainly be giving up a lot of height. One glaring weakness is that there isn’t really any imposing rim protector among the Gilas frontliners, and this is why I expect that Gilas will find guys like Yi Jianlian and Hamed Haddadi (or maybe even Sani Sakakini and Kosuke Takeuchi) extra tough to stop.
Gabe NORWOOD – 6’5, 30 yrs old
Matt GANUELAS – 6’5, 25 yrs old
JC INTAL – 6’4, 32 yrs old
Calvin ABUEVA – 6’3, 27 yrs old
Dondon HONTIVEROS – 6’3, 38 yrs old
- Hontiveros is the only pure catch-and-shoot guy on this list, but when he’s on, boy, he is on. I mean, did you guys see him torch New Zealand in the 2015 Jones Cup with those clutch treys? Ganuelas, Abueva, and Intal, meanwhile, are all athletic freaks, and they should give opposing wingmen difficult times on both ends of the floor. Norwood and Abueva should be the lynchpins of our wing play. Gabe’s experience, midrange game, and defense will be critical, while Abueva’s tireless motor should make him a resilient two-way threat. I don’t see any of our wingmen potentially exploding for 20+ points in any game, but, admittedly, it’s a pretty deep group of guys.
Terrence ROMEO – 5’11, 23 yrs old
Jayson CASTRO – 5’11, 29 yrs old
- We only really have two bona fide guards on this team, but the two we have — Romeo and Castro — are among the two quickest guards in Asia. In addition to their speed, both Romeo and Castro have the ability to change their pace at the drop of a hat and are quite accurate from long range. That combination makes them very difficult to guard. Expect both guys to lead this team’s transition attack and be among the primary creators of the squad. I also expect coach Tab to have BOTH guys on the floor in many important stretches. Can’t wait for their match-ups with the similarly awesome backcourts of Iran, Japan, Korea, Kazakhstan, and Jordan.
- Ganuelas, Abueva, Intal, and Romeo are all greenhorns at this level of international basketball, but that is tempered by the wealth of experience the other eight guys have. That will come in handy during big games, where composure, leadership, and experience will come to the fore.
- One perpetual weakness of Gilas has been inconsistency. We tend to play to the level of our opponents, which doesn’t do us many favors. One key reason a team like Iran has been so successful is that they are consistently good in every game. That’s not necessarily because of their talent (though that’s a big part), but, rather, because their attitude and intensity in every contest is consistent. Ours must be, too.
- Ganuelas is really the only bona fide shot-blocking threat on this team. Yes that’s despite having Blatche there. Dray is no rim protector. He’s a scorer. This is surely one weakness our foes would love to exploit.
In all, Gilas Pilipinas will be a tough team to deal with because of our shooters, guards, and the versatility brought by Andray Blatche, but we will struggle against bigger teams like Iran and China mainly because of their size. Also, if Blatche gets into foul trouble or is injured, our chances dwindle even more.
Given all the limitations and challenges Gilas has faced, our final 12-man lineup is solid, but I still don’t think it makes us deserving of carrying the “title favorites” label.