'Changing of the guard' at Gilas ahead of clash with Aussies
Nelson Beltran (philstar.com) - February 21, 2018 - 6:06pm

MANILA, Philippines – National coach Chot Reyes has effected a complete changing of the guards at the Gilas backcourt as he tasked Kiefer Ravena and Kevin Alas to man the point in their game against Team Australia in the FIBA World Cup qualifiers at the Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne Thursday.

Gabe Norwood is a wing defender/slasher/shooter who could also be the third point guard with Reyes opting to just rest Jayson Castro and Jio Jalalon with their slight injuries.

Andray Blatche, June Mar Fajardo, Japeth Aguilar, Matthew Wright, Allein Maliksi, Calvin Abueva and RR Pogoy continue to serve duty while Carl Bryan Cruz and Abu Tratter are two Gilas World Cup newcomers in the Melbourne setto set at 7:35 p.m. (4:35 p.m. in Manila).

Ravena and Alas were also in the lineup in the opening window of the qualifiers last November but merely served as backup to Castro, Gilas’ ace guard from the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship.

The TNT KaTropa main man was Gilas’ lead gun in their sweep of Japan and Chinese Taipei, averaging 20 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists.

"Jayson twisted his ankle during their games against Phoenix and Ginebra. As of yesterday, he tried to go hard in practice but still he wasn't (100 percent) there at all. So we decided that Jayson is going to sit out, together with Jio who's also feeling some slight pain in his leg," said Reyes on ESPN5.

"We decided to play the guys who aren't experiencing any nagging injuries at this point,” Reyes added.

Alas and Ravena are coming off big games with the NLEX Road Warriors, leading the team to an outright playoff entry in the PBA Philippine Cup.

The NLEX backcourt tandem combined for nine three-pointers and a total of 48 points as NLEX roared to a fourth straight win with a 93-90 nipping of Blackwater Sunday.

"Both of them have been playing very well in the PBA. And you all know Kiefer accounted himself very well in the first window. It's hard not having our top point guard, but this is an opportunity for Kiefer to step in and for Kevin to get a lot more minutes than he usually gets," Reyes said.

"Like we always say, not one guy can fill in the big shoes of Jayson, but every other guy collectively can do so. That's the approach we're going to take tomorrow,” Reyes also said.

The Nationals and the Boomers, who both swept the Japanese and the Taiwanese last November, dispute the solo lead in Group B play.

Australia is definitely the heavy favorite, being a world top-ranked team that is now the basketball kingpin in this side of the globe.

The Boomers dominated the field in the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup then clobbered the Japanese (82-58) and the Taiwanese (104-66) by a whopping average margin of 31 points in the opening frame of the qualifiers.

Gilas struggled past Japan, 77-71, in Tokyo and barely pulled off a 90-83 win over Chinese Taipei in its home game at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

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