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Sports

My Future Gilas Pilipinas Squad

Pio Garcia - The Philippine Star

With all the Gilas hoopla, all of them warranted, it’s really exciting to look at how the program would progress. Given, it’s too early to count our eggs since they haven’t hatched yet. But hey, the future looks kind and bright for this program that took over national team duties since Philippine Olympic Committee held and corrupted it to nothingness, churning out lame ducks one after another.

We only held the SEABA title. That means nothing since we are in a football-crazed region. Naturally, we’d always be the team to beat regardless. But being the team to beat in Asia? I don’t think that was in Peping Cojuangco’s plan. He only planned to cash in and that’s it.

Ever since its inception, the Gilas program has slowly but surely crept up to the point where success is inevitable. True, the current group can be lax (Taipei and Hong Kong games) at times but wholly downright murderous the next (Japan, Qatar). The past Gilas campaigns were positive signs, you cannot expect a newly born program to win golds left and right in international tourneys. You slowly build up the mansion right from the ground up straight to the patio. That’s how it is.

So, when this current crop graduates, who’ll take the reins? Good question. Before, we’d be hard-pressed to provide answers seeing that the collegiate crop stood tallest at 6’5”-6”. And no one was open to the thought of naturalization. Now? Well, I can provide you with some inconclusive ones, but they’re just my opinion. My own team. Not the real projected one. To people, especially moms, who cannot understand why I’m leaving out their sons, tough luck. Opinion is an opinion.  Well, let’s rock.

GUARDS

For my future Gilas, I’d like my guards to be able to handle the ball, direct traffic, but able to score (blame my Derrick Rose fanboy-ism) down the lane, bullying opposing guards with impunity. My pet peeve is when they throw up shots before the ball has been touched by every teammate on the floor. Tough to name the pool but I have to do it. Well here are my picks for the guards:

Baser Amer

The best point guard in the nation. No questions asked. And no further explanation needed.

Kiefer Ravena

No bias here, but Ravena, with his new post-up game, just upped the ante for this one. You want a combo guard? Well, I’m giving you the best. He’ll be stepping into the role of Jayson Castro (the one with William on his back) of being that scoring guard that can drive down the lane, shift gears in a blink and create for teammates. The plus here is that he has high basketball IQ and can finish at the rack no matter how tall (hi Arnold Van Opstal!) nor bulky (hi Karim Abdul!).

Mark Cruz

Next to Amer, Cruz is one of the best at pushing the ball, making the right read, dropping off when needed or pulling up for the midrange J, reminiscent of big brother Marvin. Also, Cruzifier version 2.0 doesn’t need a lot of shots to earn his points. He is very efficient so far in the NCAA.

Calvin Abueva

Abueva plays as a power forward both in the collegiate ranks and even in the pros. But his height would severely prevent that in international play. Hence, I’m listing him as a guard. He stands at a generous 6’2” give or take a few. But the evolving talent that Abueva possesses and the physical tools to punish smaller people on him? Who wouldn’t want him donning a National jersey?

Garvo Lanete

I’m going with someone I’ve stuck with since I saw him in his rookie year for San Beda. You need clutch baskets? Here’s one gunslinger who’s never shy. And this guy knows how to pick his spots. He’s great coming off picks than putting it on the deck (this ain’t no diss Gabo). Also, Lanete is a very underrated defender. He can put the cuffs when needed. Just ask Ronald Pascual.

Just missed the cut: Terrence Romeo (you know why), RR Garcia, Jericho Cruz, James Forrester

FORWARDS

This is where I had a headache. There’s just too many of them to choose from who can really deliver and play well in the dribble drive system.

Bobby Ray Parks

Do we need any more explanations for this? I mean come on, one of two legit players who have a long shot at the NBA? That plus being the best collegiate player in the land right now? Knock for clutch? Parks has been big in the clutch for NU, folks.

Japeth Aguilar

The former Blue Eagle and forgotten Hilltopper would probably be the biggest star for Gilas Pilipinas in future campaigns (check Japan and Qatar games son). He can play both forward spots and that in itself alone is a big boon. Parks and Aguilar on the floor at the same time? Big. Damn big.

Kevin Ferrer

Ferrer has the pedigree. He has the athleticism, talent and basketball IQ to be effective in a Gabe Norwood-type of role. Also, his penchant to get in people’s heads like Abueva would literally drive players nuts. He also can stroke that jumper, or slash inside while finishing strong at the rack or getting a foul. This guy would be big in spurts backing up Parks and Aguilar.

Raymund Almazan

Almazan is probably the only center in terms of collegiate pedigree to have that latent defensive ability you cannot teach. The blocking is A+ and the defensive IQ is very, very high. However, his reed-thin frame would be no match against the bigger guys like the Kazakhs or Iran. He would be perfect as a big defending those who can put the ball on the deck or straight away shoot the ball similar to what Kosuke Takeuchi offers for Japan and that Taiwanese fellow. So with that, I’ll peg him as a power forward for this fantasy Gilas lineup.

Just missed the cut: Jeron Teng, Jeric Teng, Chris Newsome, Jake Pascual (sorry to see the Snake go here), Aljon Mariano, Ian Sanggalang

CENTER

Before, I would be baffled as to who to pick to play the slot for Team Pilipinas is gonna be. But now? We have a good crop of young centers out there who, under Norman Black’s magic would make Hamed Haddadi look like a has-been in years to come. Okay, that’s a bold statement, but given the potential these guys have, they can wreak havoc underneath really.

Arnold Van Opstal

I would not have picked AVO if it was last year. But this year? Boy has AVO proven he has game. By work rate alone, he has shown more activity and mobility than Greg Slaughter had in the big man’s two years as a Blue Eagle. The offensive potential is sky high as well as the rebounding intensity he is showing. Imagine what Norman Black can do to this young man.

June Mar Fajardo

Together with Aguilar, the Kraken is one half of the dream frontcourt of Team Pilipinas. Make no mistake, Fajardo is no slouch. He’s just new to the international game so give him a break. Let him have his “seasoning” and I’m sure Fajardo will be making opposing big men cry with his enviable combination of size, speed, footwork, touch and post know-how. Give him one more campaign and this guy would be terrorizing Asia.

Ingrid Sewa

While I want Kuya Marcus to still be our naturalized enforcer, he’s getting on age. It’s not a knock on Kuya Marcus, but he knows when to pass the torch when the time comes. Why am I high on Sewa as a naturalized candidate? For one, he’s Ali Peek with an additional seven inches. The guy is built like a fortress. He’s also young, which means you can still teach him and change his bad habits. His potential? Sky high for me. Soft touch, good positioning, rebounding instincts, yep he has it. He needs more seasoning though. Guy for the task? Norman Black of course.

13th Man

Similar to Beau Belga being relegated to the 13th man, I’m picking a big guy to go for the 13th spot just in case something bad happens.

Greg Slaughter

I would’ve picked Slaughter over Van Opstal had AVO continued to not live up to his potential. But as stated above, AVO’s game has grown by leaps and bounds that he’s making Slaughter look like a big guy whose feet are nailed to the floor and doesn’t possess the lateral quickness to cover up holes. True you cannot teach height, but strength and post skills need to be developed before Slaughter develops to be a real bad monster. As it is, Fajardo has the big guy’s number.

Just missed the cut: I cannot think of any big man project viable for those stated above.

Those would be great for a fantasy Gilas Pilipinas team I believe. Of course, I took into consideration how they perform in a simulated dribble drive system based on their on-court tendencies from watching actual games. And not just because of name power.

Well, there you go. Hopefully along the way, everyone mentioned would get serious considerations.

Any violent reactions? Do send your suggestions to @PioStark.

ABUEVA ARNOLD VAN OPSTAL BIG BLUE EAGLE FAJARDO GILAS PILIPINAS GREG SLAUGHTER NORMAN BLACK ONE
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