Gilas survives European physicality
Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - August 12, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Savoring an early taste of what to expect at the FIBA World Cup, the Philippine national team was introduced to the European brand of physicality and took some hard licks enroute to an 89-58 decision over a Spanish pro league selection in a tune-up game in Vitoria, Spain, last Sunday night (yesterday morning, Manila time).

Gilas team manager Aboy Castro said there were a few scary moments. L. A. Tenorio was hit on the face by a wayward elbow from 6-9 center David Doblas, a 33-year-old veteran of the Gipuzkoa Basket Club of San Sebastian, and fell. Tenorio brushed off the knock, stood up and made two free throws. Ranidel de Ocampo was also smacked while elevating for a dunk. He was recalled to the bench to ice his left elbow and wrist and never went back on the court.

The selection was bannered by 6-7 Juancho Hernan Gomez who played on the Spanish team that took the bronze medal at the FIBA Europe U18 Championships in Latvia last year. Gomez, now 19, averaged 6.3 points and 3.6 rebounds as Spain posted a 6-3 record. He hit 18 points on 6-of-7 field goals, including a triple, and 5-of-5 free throws to lead Spain to an 88-61 romp over Italy in that tournament. Against Gilas, Gomez shot 12 points.

The Spanish league is called Liga ACB (Asociacion de Clubs de Baloncesto) which was formed in 1957 and has 18 teams. Real Madrid is the winningest ACB club in history with 31 championships and FC Barcelona is next with 18. Vitoria, where Gilas is training, is represented in the ACB by the Laboral Kutxa Baskonia club.

Gilas head coach Chot Reyes is being assisted in Vitoria by Nacho Lezcano who coaches the Ivory Coast national squad and the Palencia club in the Spanish second division league LEB (Liga Espanola de Baloncesto). Lezcano and Spanish player agent Igor Crespo are arranging the schedule of Gilas’ practice games in Spain.

Against the ACB selection, Gilas was on attack mode from the start. Naturalized player Andray Blatche knocked down four triples and collected 15 points as Gilas led, 50-31, at the half. Gilas stormed to a 23-16 edge at the end of the first quarter. At the turn, Gilas had already drained eight triples, including two from Gabe Norwood and one each from Paul Lee and Jimmy Alapag. Castro said Gilas’ defensive intensity and three-point shooting were at a high level. Gilas was up, 67-42, after three periods then finished off the Spanish selection, 89-58.

“Four buses of Filipinos made the one-hour trip from Bilbao,” said Castro. “It looks like Spain is our homecourt.” Blatche wound up with 18 points and Lee, 10. Jared Dillinger scored 9, Tenorio 7 and Norwood, Gary David and Japeth Aguilar 6 apiece.

Gilas shot 53.2 percent from the field, including a scorching 50 percent from three-point range on 13-of-26. ACB hit 39.6 percent and buried only 4-of-23 triples. Gilas nailed 8-of-12 free throws and ACB, 12-of-20. The Philippines had more rebounds, 27-21 and assists, 10-7.

Reyes said the result wasn’t important. He was more concerned with finding different combinations that clicked. Reyes said the team looked sharp in moving the ball to locate open shooters. It was a baptism of fire as Gilas got a dose of European-style roughhousing. Doblas was a huge physical presence in the interior for the Spanish selection with his 285-pound frame. He averaged 11.9 points and 6.0 rebounds in 34 ACB games last season.

“The thing I like most was the ball movement, the selflessness and the willingness to share the basketball,” said Reyes. “That was the key, they’re very good players individually but they’re more of an ACB selection plus they missed two more of their big men. So, for me, it’s taking a look at some combinations for the players while for the players, it’s getting used to playing with Dray. When we go to Antibes, we’ll be playing real tough teams but this was a very good warm-up for us.”

Host Spain has also started its warm-ups for the World Cup. Last Thursday, the Spanish national team beat Canada, 82-70, to kick off the series of friendlies in Coruna. Pau Gasol shot 20 points, brother Marc 15 and naturalized player Serge Ibaka also netted 15. Spain defeated Angola, 79-70, in its second warm-up in Seville last Sunday. Pau Gasol scored 17, Sergio Llull 14 and Ibaka 13 to pace the Spanish squad.

Eight more warm-ups are scheduled for Gilas before the Philippines battles Croatia to open the World Cup in Seville on Aug. 30. The next warm-up will be with France at the Azur Arena in Antibes on Aug. 15. Gilas will play Australia on Aug. 16 and Ukraine on Aug. 17, both in Antibes. Then, the Philippines moves to San Sebastian where Gilas takes on the Basque team Euskadi on Aug. 19 and Angola on Aug. 21. Gilas plays Mexico in Vitoria on Aug. 23, Dominican Republic in Guadalajara on Aug. 24 and Egypt, also in Guadalajara, on Aug. 25.  Guadalajara is situated about 37 miles northeast of Madrid.

At the moment, Reyes is working with assistants Joseph Uichico and Josh Reyes, consultant Tab Baldwin and Lezcano. Assistant coaches Norman Black and Ryan Gregorio will join Reyes’ staff in Spain on Aug. 22 while assistant coach Nash Racela will leave Manila on Aug. 24. Reyes’ staff will be complete before the World Cup begins.


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