Cadets a work in progress
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - April 29, 2018 - 12:00am

Fans shouldn’t expect too much from the Gilas Cadets who are competing in the senior division of the Filoil Flying V Preseason Premier Cup that started last April 21 at the Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan. Here’s why. Firstly, they’re short-handed. Of the 23 players named to the Cadets pool last January, four aren’t available because they’re abroad. Then, the players who are in collegiate lineups are excused from suiting up for Gilas when they match up. Secondly, coach Joseph Uichico is deeply involved in conducting seminars all over the country for SBP in a schedule that was finalized before the Filoil calendar was firmed up. Last Friday, Uichico was in Iloilo for a camp while Gilas battled La Salle in San Juan.

And thirdly, the players are new to each other so chemistry will be an issue particularly at the onset. The arrival of superstars Kobe Paras and Ricci Rivero was a boost but it has also shaken up the team outlook because they’re extremely talented one-on-one operators and the process of assimilation will take time.  

Since PBA players may not be available to represent the country at the Jones Cup in July or the Asian Games in August, there’s a possibility that the Cadets will pick up the cudgels. The problem is some collegiate players will be seeing action in the NCAA by then and those with UAAP schools will be in thick of preparations for the coming season. Paras, Rivero, Abu Tratter and another Rivero, Prince, however, may be free. The Rivero brothers are so far uncommitted to play for any school. Paras doesn’t look like he’s going back to school and Tratter has completed his varsity eligibility with La Salle.

The foreign-based players in the Cadets roster are 6-9 A. J. Edu, 6-4 Dwight Ramos, 6-8 Troy Rike and 6-1 Remy Martin. Edu, who is based in London, recently committed to play for the University of Toledo, an NCAA Division I school in Ohio. Ramos is with Fullerton State, the same school that produced TNT KaTropa guard Ryan Reyes and San Miguel Beer forward Marcio Lassiter. Rike is with Wake Forest, Tim Duncan’s alma mater, while Martin is with Arizona State.

The initial 23-man Cadets roster listed Robert Bolick, C. J. Perez, Juan Gomez de Liano, Martin, Matt Nieto, Paul Desiderio, Thirdy Ravena, Jay-Jay Alejandro, Ken Tuffin, Jeo Ambohot, Paras, Ramos, Josh Sinclair, Arvin Tolentino, Javee Mocon, Kai Sotto, Isaac Go, Tratter, Edu, Karl Tamayo, Kenmark Carino, Will Gozum and Rike. Andrei Caracut, Dodong Santillan and Ricci Rivero were in the early candidates list but La Salle begged off from participating to focus on rebuilding the Green Archers. When Rivero later left the Archers, he was added to the Cadets cast. His brother Prince also joined. The SBP plan is to form a Cadets pool now with the long-term view of getting ready for the 2023 FIBA World Cup which the country will host.

In Gilas’ Filoil Flying V debut, the Cadets lost a 75-69 decision to Ateneo. Go, Nieto and Ravena shed off their Gilas jerseys to suit up for the Blue Eagles. Desiderio and De Liano played for UP against La Salle in the first game of a doubleheader then suited up for Gilas against Ateneo in the nightcap so they had to be exhausted at the final buzzer. As expected, Ricci and Paras showed the way for the Cadets with a combined 30 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.

Last Friday, Gilas blew a 20-point lead and was defeated by La Salle, 91-72. De Liano had 14 points at the half but was blanked the rest of the way as the Archers turned on the screws defensively to reverse the tide. Paras had a hot start with 12 points in the first two quarters then finished with 19. Ricci, playing against his former team, was held to six points on 2-of-7 from the field and 2-of-4 from the line with three rebounds, three assists, two steals and four turnovers in 21 minutes.  The Archers dominated the boards, 50-35, had more second chance points, 21-6 and torched Gilas with more three-point conversions, 13-9.

Once again, Gilas’ Ateneo players didn’t suit up as they went up against San Beda in the first contest. It would be interesting to find out how the Cadets play with Ravena, Go and Nieto in harness. Add to that list the hard-working Bolick who’s sidelined with a knee injury.

For those who’ve been disappointed with Gilas’ performance so far, keep in mind the Cadets are working under difficult circumstances. They’re competing in the Filoil Flying V Preseason Premier Cup for exposure, familiarity and teamwork. For sure, once they play with a complete lineup, things will be different.

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