Men to be proud of
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - September 12, 2015 - 10:00am

The final composition of the 12-man Gilas lineup for the FIBA Asia Championships in Changsha on Sept. 23-Oct. 3 is a relatively radical departure from the Philippine team that took seventh place at the Asian Games in Incheon last year. Only three players were held over from Incheon, namely Ranidel de Ocampo, Gabe Norwood and Marc Pingris. Gone were Jimmy Alapag, L. A. Tenorio, Jeff Chan, Jared Dillinger, Gary David, Marcus Douthit, JuneMar Fajardo, Paul Lee and Japeth Aguilar.

David and Alapag were in coach Tab Baldwin’s training pool for Changsha. When the 12-man cast was submitted to FIBA Asia, their names were missing. Others in the pool who were cut were Aldrech Ramos, Troy Rosario and Moala Tautuaa. At the Toyota Four Nations Cup in Estonia and the Jones Cup in Taipei, Baldwin tested Ramos, Rosario and Tautuaa in the frontline. They all had their moments, particularly Tautuaa but the Fil-Tongan could only crack the final roster if Andray Blatche isn’t available. That’s because Tautuaa doesn’t qualify as a Filipino player even if he has Filipino lineage.

Under FIBA rules, a player with dual citizenship may opt to play for only one of his two countries and must show a passport of that country that was issued before he turned 16. Tautuaa, 26, got his Filipino passport only this year. So he would qualify only as a naturalized player.

Rosario was on the Philippine squad that took the gold medal at the Southeast Asian Games in Singapore recently. Like Tautuaa, he had his moments in Taipei. The problem is Rosario’s spot is reserved for De Ocampo who can play three, four or five. He couldn’t be a primary backup at four because Calvin Abueva and Sonny Thoss would be ahead in the rotation. Ramos was tested at center in Taipei and appeared too gangly to make a difference defensively. He’s not a physical player and his trump card is he shoots with a lot of range. But he, too, would be a poor substitute for De Ocampo.

* * * *

David lost out to Matt Ganuelas and J. C. Intal in the race for a slot.  Both Ganuelas and Intal are versatile and can play multiple positions. They’re both long which is an advantage in playing defense. They’re also taller than David so that was an added edge. Alapag was brought into the pool more as a mentor than as a candidate to make it. With Terrence Romeo standing 5-10, Alapag would’ve been the smallest Gilas player in Changsha at 5-9.

Here’s the 12-man roster with height and age – 6-2 Calvin Abueva, 27, 6-11 Andray Blatche, 29, 6-6 Ranidel de Ocampo, 33, 6-5 Matt Ganuelas, 25, 6-2 Dondon Hontiveros, 38, 6-4 J. C. Intal, 31, 6-6 Gabe Norwood, 30, 6-6 Marc Pingris, 33, 5-10 Terrence Romeo, 23, 6-9 Asi Taulava, 42, 6-7 Sonny Thoss, 33 and 5-11 Jayson Castro, 29. The average age is 31.1 years and average height is 6-3. At the FIBA World Cup last year, Gilas’ average age was slightly lower at 30.8.

Taulava is Gilas’ senior statesman. He’s making a comeback to the Philippine squad at a time when his services are badly needed. Despite his age, Taulava remains an inside force. He was on the Philippine team that Rajko Toroman coached at the 2011 FIBA Asia edition. De Ocampo and Taulava are the only holdovers from that squad. Their teammates were Mark Barroca, Jvee Casio, Alapag, Chris Tiu, Aguilar, Mac Baracael, Douthit, Kelly Williams, Marcio Lassiter and Chris Lutz.

Intal displayed guts in firing 10 points in the fourth quarter against Iran at the Jones Cup. His back-to-back buckets brought Gilas to within three then a huge triple cut the margin to four, 65-61, with 3:41 left. Ganuelas closed out the scoring with an emphatic dunk as Iran won, 74-65. Ganuelas isn’t new to the national team. He played at the 2012 Jones Cup, the 2012 FIBA Asia Cup and the 2013 Southeast Asian Games. Ganuelas is a high-energy leaper who gets in your face defensively. He’s a perfect sub for Norwood in that they are both able to bring up the ball and play tough defense.

* * * *

Romeo and Abueva provide a fresh dimension to Gilas as first-timers. They’re fighters who don’t give up. There isn’t a quicker and more intense rim runner who hustles the length of the floor to score on the move than Abueva. Romeo is a deadly three-point shooter who hardly misses on an open look. They’re fast on their feet which makes it difficult for defenders to keep in step. When opposing teams zone, Gilas has the weapons to attack on penetrations and draw the defense inwards. Romeo’s drawback is size as he won’t be able to physically intimidate anyone on the court. But he’s a crack trapper because of his quickness and sense of anticipation.

Hontiveros caught Baldwin’s eye because of his outside shooting form. Without Lee or Chan firing from the perimeter, Baldwin found Hontiveros to fill the gap. Hontiveros has good and bad days. When he’s hot, he sizzles. When he’s cold, he freezes. You can’t tell how Hontiveros is until he’s on the floor. Definitely, Hontiveros is worth the gamble. Thoss is another player being given the chance to prove he belongs. Thoss’ tendency to post up and challenge bigger guys is a liability. His back-down, dribble-in style won’t work in Changsha. But what will work is his medium-range jumper. He’s aggressive, physical and tough. Those are attributes that Thoss brings to the table. He won’t make a difference as an individual player but he’ll make an impact in a complementary role.

If Blatche plays anywhere near how he busted out at the FIBA World Cup last year, Gilas will go far. The sooner he gets back into shape, the better for the team. Blatche is a smart player and knows when to attack, when to pass, when to bang, when to stroke it from outside, when to barge in. Once he realizes he’s got teammates who are capable of delivering, his job becomes easier.

De Ocampo, Pingris, Castro and Norwood are reliables. As veterans, they’re the leaders. They’re the guys who’ll show how it’s done and who’ll do it. The only way Gilas will zoom to the top of FIBA Asia is if all 12 players work as a unit. They’ve got to cover for each other, play team defense and pass the ball around until there’s an open man for the shot. No one player will bring the title to the Philippines, not even Blatche. Baldwin has a fighting platoon of 12 that plays with guts, heart and spirit. It’s a team every Filipino can be proud of.


  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?
Login is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with