Saturday, July 02, 2016

Chain on Thoughts on Gilas Pilipinas Before the FIBA OQT Starts

The 2016 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament – wherein three countries host three simultaneous contests to determine three wildcard teams for the basketball tournament competition in the Rio Olympics next month – is just a few days away.  As one of the host countries and the runner-up from last year’s FIBA Asia (which China cheated won), the Philippines is set to compete in it.  As a Filipino hoops fan, I’ve some thoughts on the matter…
→ Sorry, but I doubt that the Philippines will win that Olympic spot. Of course, I want to see my country compete in the Olympics. But I’m just being realistic.
→ The Philippine national men’s basketball team, i.e. Gilas Pilipinas, ranked no. 28 in the world, will play in Group B with no. 5 France and no. 21 New Zealand.  Having NBA players Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum, and Boris Diaw in the roster, France is the favorite to take the number one spot in Group B.
→ There’s a realistic chance Gilas will beat no. 21 New Zealand for the second rank in Group B.  It’s a team that they have beaten in the past after all.
→ However, if Gilas Pilipinas moves to the semi-finals as Group B’s number two, they will face the number one of Group A, which would likely turn out being no. 8 Turkey.  This is a team that beat Gilas during a pair of tune up games leading to the tournament.  The first one had been a 35-point rout.
→ If Gilas Pilipinas actually pull off upset wins over France and Turkey, and win the tournament, this would likely be the greatest underdog story in international basketball in, like, ever!
→ I’m happy June Mar Fajardo is with the Gilas this time around.  I believe they would have won against China last year if Fajardo got to play.
→ Here’s what I wish the Gilas Pilipinas program had done to prepare for this tournament:
Their training with Coach Tab Baldwin should have started immediately after last year’s FIBA Asia.  They should have solely focused on training for the FIBA OQT from that point to now.  A 15-20 member roster – from which the final twelve will be chosen from – should have been selected, and these players should have been permitted to take a leave of absence from the PBA during the several months of training.  If that had been the case, I would have had more confidence on this team going into this tournament.
→ Nevertheless, there had been several times that Gilas Pilipinas exceeded expectations.  They might actually do it again.   A miracle might happen.  Bilog ang bola.
→ I was sad and shocked when it was announced that Calvin Abueva didn’t make the cut for this Gilas Pilipinas team (I would have easily picked him over Troy Rosario).  He was one of my favorite players in last year’s Gilas roster.  His hustle and guts personified the “Puso!” philosophy of the team.  Despite being small, he dedicatedly plays “garbage” basketball with ferocity – defending, rebounding, hustling – that he almost rivalled the quality hardwork of Marc “Pinoy Sakuragi” Pingris (one of my favorite PBA/Gilas players).  He also plays with the swagger and gritty abandon of a “tambay” – and I enjoyed that of him a lot.  Hope to see a better version of this Calvin Abueva in the next Gilas roster.
→ Oh boy, the duel between Jayson Castro and Tony Parker is going to be fun to watch!
→ Castro is easily the best point guard in Asia, and it can be said that he’s the most important member of this team (Yes, more important than Blatche, in my opinion).
→ I hope they don’t rely on too much Andray Blatche isolation plays.
→ Too bad Paul Lee isn’t able to join the team this time around due to an injury last May.
→ There are a couple of names I want to see suit up for Gilas.  But there’s only room for twelve.  Nonetheless, with the exception of Calvin’s snub and the absence still of Jordan Clarkson, this Gilas roster rather looks solid.
→ Win or lose (but, of course, I strongly prefer the win), I just want to see Gilas Pilipinas to play their hearts’ out.
→ PUSO!  #LabanPilipinas 

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