To Play Or Not To Play

In the days that came after Gilas brought home the silver medal in the FIBA Asia Championships and a slot in the Rio Olympic qualifiers, controversy struck the Philippine basketball scene. Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas Chairman Manny Pangilinan opined that we should consider giving up our slot in the Olympic qualifiers, if we could not secure the needed support from all Philippine basketball stakeholders.
In fact, Mr. Pangilinan practically admitted that, given the strength of the other teams in the Olympic qualifiers, Gilas 3.0 as constructed had little to no chance of snagging a ticket to Rio. But he also left a door open, saying that if a commitment can be attained from the PBA that the SBP will have full access to all the players, then he not only send a Gilas team but would also bid to be a host for one of the qualifying tournaments.
Our current situation is replete with political issues and maneuverings, which this writer is not in any way an expert of. So let’s stick with the basketball side of things and answer this question: Should we send a team to the Olympic qualifiers?
And the answer to that is: Yes. But not for sentimental or emotional reasons. We should send a team for the right reasons. And as far as I’m concerned, there are only two “right” reasons.
Right Reason #1 – If we can realistically win a ticket to Rio. That means sending the best team we can possibly form. Which means players like June Mar Fajardo, Paul Lee, Jeff Chan and Jordan Clarkson must be on the squad. Ironically, it’s Jordan Clarkson who may be the easiest to get on board.
That also means Andray Blatche must be in playing shape, and that there are no injuries to key players like Jayson Castro, Gabe Norwood, Ranidel de Ocampo or Marc Pingris. 
Add to that a proper training camp, several hard tune up games and a controversy-free training atmosphere and we should be in business. (Read how this team can win here)

Right Reason #2 – To train a team for the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers and the FIBA World Cup 2019. We have basically 4 years to train for the 2019 FIBA World Cup. We should make full use of those years, if we want to make back-to-back appearances on international basketball’s biggest stage.
What that means is making the sacrifice now for future gains.  That may be hard to swallow for the proud Filipino fan but the reality is that, among Gilas 3.0 players, only Terence Romeo (23 years old) and Matt Ganuelas-Rosser (25 years old) may still be in their prime when the 2019 World Cup comes around.  Calvin Abueva will be 31 by then, which will put him on the downhill side of his career, while Blatche and Castro will both be 33, almost definitely past their prime as well.
If we go with this reason, then starting next year, our team should be composed of players like Jordan Clarkson, Terence Romeo, Matt Ganuelas-Rosser, Troy Rosario, Kiefer Ravena, Kobe Paras, Kevin Ferrer, Rey Belo, Paolo Rivero, Arnold Van Opstal, Norbert Torres and maybe even a young naturalized player.
Pangilinan actually made reference to doing what China just did, which is craft a long-term plan for getting back on top of Asian basketball. Their plan (to be discussed in an upcoming article) bore fruit this year, as China emerged undefeated from the FIBA Asia Championships with the lone ticket to Rio. That is what Pangilinan hopes to replicate with a Gilas-in-training team.
As for other reasons, there will be many, but none which will actually be beneficial to Philippine basketball. A watered down Gilas squad sent only for pride’s sake or to avoid getting banned by FIBA will only provide more fodder for the already fiery duel between the SBP and the PBA, which might send Philippine basketball down the road to perdition yet again.
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Finally we got past Korea in FIBA World Rankings after strong showing in FIBA ASIA 2015

Finally, we were able to crack top 30 and moved past Korea! 

Here is the official post from FIBA:
The continental basketball championships staged this summer have led to some changes in the FIBA World Ranking!
FIBA World Ranking Men after the 2015 Continental Championships:
#1 United States of America
#2 Spain
#3 Lithuania#4 Argentina#5 France#6 Serbia#7 Russia#8 Turkey#9 Brazil#10 Greece#11 Australia#12 Croatia#13 Slovenia#14 People’s Republic of China#15 Angola#16 Puerto Rico#17 Islamic Republic of Iran#18 Dominican Republic#19 Mexico#20 Federal Republic of Germany#21 New Zealand#22 Venezuela#23 Tunisia#24 Great Britain#25 Nigeria#26 Canada#27 Uruguay#28 Philippines#29 Jordan#30 Korea#31 Senegal#32 Finland#33 Panama#34 Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia#35 Latvia#35 Italy#37 Israel#38 Poland#38 Ukraine#40 Cote d’Ivoire#41 Egypt#42 Czech Republic#43 Lebanon#44 Belgium#45 Cuba#46 Paraguay#47 Georgia#48 Japan#48 Chinese Taipei#50 Qatar#51 Bulgaria#52 Cameroon#53 Bosnia and Herzegovina#53 India#55 Jamaica#56 Kazakhstan#57 Mali#57 Central African Republic#59 Virgin Islands#60 Morocco#61 Mozambique#61 Sweden#63 Cape Verde#64 Rwanda#65 United Arab Emirates#65 Hong Kong#67 Malaysia#68 Algeria#69 Kuwait#70 Uzbekistan#71 Bahrain#72 Indonesia#72 Montenegro#72 Syria#75 Palestine#76 Gabon#77 South Africa#77 Kingdom of Saudi Arabia#79 Libya#79 Republic of Congo#81 Thailand#82 Singapore#82 Madagascar#84 Iceland#84 Portugal#84 Netherlands#84 Estonia#88 Sri Lanka#89 Uganda#89 Chad#91 Burkina Faso#91 Togo#91 Zimbabwe

YES! here are the top plays of team philippines from FIBA:


Written by:
Aldrin C.
Team Powcast

The Difficult Road Ahead (Part 2)

In part two of our analysis on the chances of Gilas to advance to the Rio Olympics via the Olympic Qualifiers, we’ll take into consideration some of their notable opponents.
C – JunMar Fajardo
PF – Slim Andray Blatche/Ranidel de Ocampo/Marc Pingris
SF – Gabe Norwood/Alvin Abueva/Jeth Troy Rosario
SG – Jordan Clarkson/Paul Lee/ Jeff Chan
PG – Jayson Castro/Terence Romeo
This team can do a lot of damage and, depending on the other teams in their group, may have a slight chance of getting a ticket to Rio.
Teams they can handle: Iran, Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico, New Zealand, Italy
I think Gilas will have more than enough firepower to once again upend its Asian neighbors, as well as Puerto Rico. Against Mexico and New Zealand, Gilas will have to make sure that their guards (Castro, Clarkson and Romeo) and wingmen are in peak form, as these are the positions where we’d have a clear advantage. Against Italy, it’s the bigs who will make a difference, as Blatche, Fajardo, de Ocampo and Pingris can take advantage of the relative passiveness of the Italian big men.
Teams they’ll struggle against: France, Serbia, Greece, Canada, Czech Republic

Not surprisingly, these are the teams with legitimate NBA or Euroleague talent. The Czech Republic may be the easiest of these teams to beat, but 7footer Jan Vesely and 6-7 point guard Tomas Satoransky will definitely make sure we sweat blood trying to get past them. Greece and Serbia are both very strong in all positions and are two of the most skilled teams in the world.  Canada and France are choc-full of NBA talent and we’re not talking about end-of-the-bench NBA players here. We’re talking about legitimate NBA stars like Tony Parker, Andrew Wiggins, Rudy Gobert, and Nicolas Batum as well as rotation players like Boris Diaw, Nando de Colo, Cory Joseph, Anthony Bennett, Evan Fournier, Andrew Nicholson, Nik Stauskas, Kelly Olynyk and Robert Sacre. Getting past those two teams will be the most difficult task of all. (The FIBA qualifiers will be on July 5-11, right when the NBA is on its yearly break, so these NBA players will be available)
Well first, we’d need the luck of the draw.  With 15 teams being divided into 3 groups, we’re looking at a 5-team group with the champion getting the Rio ticket. Which means we need to get into a group with 3 winnable games, and 1 hard game that isn’t France or Canada. So if Gilas was grouped with Puerto Rico, New Zealand, Italy and Greece, we might actually have a realistic chance of earning a Rio ticket.
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The Difficult Road Ahead (Part 1)

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When Gilas lost to China in the gold medal match of the FIBA Asia Championhips by a score of 67-78, we lost much, much more than just the continental title. We also lost the easiest available ticket to the Rio Olympics next year.
Gilas did qualify for the Olympic qualifiers in July next year, when 18 teams will battle it out for 3 more tickets to Rio. The problem? Already included in this roster of 18 teams are world-class teams like France, Serbia, Greece, Mexico and Puerto Rico, rising teams like Italy, the Czech Republic, Canada, and New Zealand, and Asian qualifiers Iran and Japan. That’s a murderers’ row of teams to get through for three Olympic tickets. 
So what are Gilas’ chances for an Olympic ticket? My biased opinion: fair to small. My unbiased opinion: small to miniscule. I’m sure your next question would be “why?” (or you could also be jumping down my throat for being unpatriotic, having no faith in Gilas or just being a sucky Filipino).
Let’s assume you asked why. Here’s how I see things going in the coming FIBA Olympic Qualifiers.
Biased Opinion: We may be able to field our best team yet, if politics do not rear up its ugly head once again and everything goes our way, with regards to team personnel. That means getting slim Andray Blatche back, getting the proper FIBA papers for Jordan Clarkson, and getting several PBA stars back into the fold.
With that in mind, this is what our roster will look like:
Sure picks: Slim Andray Blatche, Jordan Clarkson, Jayson Castro, Junmar Fajardo, Ranidel de Ocampo, Marc Pingris, Gabe Norwood, Calvin Abueva, and Terence Romeo.

This lineup is an experienced one but remarkably old, with speed and toughness galore. There are some areas that we could improve on (outside shooting, rebounding, defense) and these players would most probably be picked because of those problem areas.

Outside shooting – Paul Lee and Jeff Chan. Chan is the purer shooter but Lee is more than adequate. Either one would be a major upgrade over Ganuelas or Intal, and they’re also better than Abueva, who makes the team because of his other qualities.
Rebounding/defense – Jeth Troy Rosario. Makes the cut above players like Japeth Aguilar, Greg Slaughter and Raymond Almazan because of his combination of athleticism, skills, and tenacity. If Aguilar toughened up, or Slaughter sped up, or Alamazan bulked up, any of those three may have a chance to take this slot. But until then, Rosario has it because of his continuing game development plus his familiarity with Tab Baldwin’s system.
Outlook of this team:Very nice. This team can really do some major damage, with Fajardo scoring inside, Rosario preying at the baseline, Blatche and Clarkson from everywhere, Castro and Romeo driving into the lane, Chan, Lee and de Ocampo firing from three to break the zone, and Pingris, Norwood, and Abueva for energy and defense. Actually, that team could very well have beaten China at the FIBA Championships. Just sayin’.
Unbiased Opinion:If recent developments run true to form, politics will and already has reared up its ugly head.  That means not getting the PBA stars with the skill sets we need back into the fold. Hell, it might even mean not getting any PBA players at all. If we take the worst-case scenario, that means Gilas will be sending a team composed mostly of players from the MVP teams, plus some outstanding amateur cadets, chunky Blatche shows up to play, and Clarkson’s eligibity is turned down by FIBA.
With that in mind, this is what our roster will look like:
Sure picks: Chunky Andray Blatche, Jayson Castro, Ranidel de Ocampo, Jeth Troy Rosario, Jimmy Alapag, Kelly Williams, Matt Ganuelas-Rosser, Kiefer Ravena, Bobby Ray Parks, Kobe Paras, Kevin Ferrer and Glenn Khobuntin.
This lineup is so problematic it’s hard to know where to start. Size is basically non-existent, the mix of experience and youth is not balanced (meaning the old guys are really old, the young guys are really young and maybe only Blatche and Castro can be considered still at their peak), and toughness is a big, big question mark.  
Outlook of this team: Horrible. Andray Blatche is in no shape to be everything for the team, Castro and Alapag will need to be primary scorers and playmakers, Williams and Rosario will routinely give up 3-5 inches in their respective positions, and everyone else will be relatively inexperienced to bother battle-hardened international players.
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Gilas Loses To China, 67-78, Cops Silver Medal.

For the first two minutes, Gilas seemed like they would be able to do to China what they did to Iran.  Gilas started off with a 5 point burst before China could even get a point on the scoreboard. But when China started crashing the boards, they started piling up the points on the scoreboard very quickly.
Gilas worked themselves in striking distance for most of the game. At the end of the third, when Gilas was down by just 10, China struck with a 5-point flurry that took the wind out of the Gilas sails. From that moment, China was able to coast until the end of the game.
Here are the four key factors that contributed to Gilas losing this game:

China’s overwhelming height advantage – Zhou Qi and Yi Jianlian made life so miserable for everyone on Gilas, from Blatche, who was unable to bank on his superior physical gifts, to Castro, whose shots either got swatted or missed because he had to change his shot to avoid the block.  Blatche only had 4 points at the end of the first half and none of the other big men could score up close. The only one with any real success inside was Calvin Abueva, who drew fouls from the Chinese big men repeatedly. Of course, he also went 3-8 on FT’s so he was unable to capitalize on those fouls.

Gilas’ poor outside shooting – Gilas went 6-24 (25%) on threes tonight, with Blatche going 1-5, Ranidel de Ocampo going 1-6, and Dondon Hontiveros going 2-6. That stat is crucial because the three-point shot is a zone buster, and the Chinese played zone for most of the game. Had we hit our threes with any consistency, the Chinese would have had to play man D, and that would have given Castro or Romeo more chances to break down his defender. The last time we shot this low from three? The loss to Palestine, when we shot 29%.
Lack of energy defensively – Aside from Gabe Norwood, Marc Pingris, Calvin Abueva, and Dondon Hontiveros, I thought the others played defense without their usual energy. De Ocampo was particularly lackluster on defense tonight and so was Matt Ganuelas. Blatche, in particular, didn’t really seem to challenge China’s big guys on the defensive end, with Zhou Qi and Yi Jianlian getting the better of him several times.
Spotty officiating – Of course I’m biased. But just because I’m biased doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. In the first half alone, there were three very bad foul calls against Gilas, two of them coming against Abueva. Those foul calls occurred during box out situations and even on the replay, the foreign commentators had to admit that the call was bad. What was irritating was after acknowledging the hometown call, all the commentators would say was “well, that’s basketball, you’ve got to expect that when you’re playing the hometown team”. Say what again? Since when has favoring the hometown team become accepted referee behavior? And that trend continued till the end of regulation, with Castro being whistled for a traveling call that surprised everyone on court, even the Chinese.
That being said, we knew it was going to take an almost perfect game from Gilas to beat China in China. And the game we played was less than perfect. That doesn’t take away from the fact that Gilas stood toe-to-toe with China, slugged it out for honor and glory, and emerged with a silver medal that glistens golden in our eyes.
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Gilas Wins Over Japan But At What Cost?

Gilas Wins Over Japan But At What Cost?

Was the Gilas vs Japan game important? Of course it was.

But was it a must-win game? As far as second round games, maybe it was. But then again, losing that game would have merely meant a harder road to the finals, but not elimination from the tournament.
Those come later, when we move into the knockout stages. Will we then regret playing Andray Blatche in the third and fourth quarter of this game, rather than letting him rest his ankle so he can recover for the remaining games ahead?
Which also begs this question: do we tempt the fates tomorrow and play a limping Blatche against a physically superior, highly killed team like Iran…or do we play it safe, sit Blatche down, and accept the looming defeat to Iran?  A loss to Iran wouldn’t be devastating either, as it’s say to say that they’ll beat Palestine and if we beat India (which we should do), we’ll still be in prime position to cop second place in our group.

Personally, I would rather that Blatche did not come back to play in the Japan game. Sure, it was nip and tuck but the boys were battling back, not letting Japan take over the lead, and I have a feeling they would have closed out Japan anyway. I do understand the logic of putting Blatche back, as a guarantee, but still, I felt that the quality of our Gilas players was more than enough to win over the Japanese.
As for tomorrow, if Andray Blatche is around 80%-90% in good physical condition, I’d have no problems with him playing. But if he’s going to be limping up and down the court, jumping on one foot and getting blocked by guys 2-3 inches short because he can’t plant his foot to jump, then I’d prefer he rest his foot.
We can take the loss now, have Andray back to better foot health and be in a better position to beat China or South Korea in the semifinals and get another shot at the Iranians. This time though, it will be with something more meaningful on the line: that ticket to Rio.
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Gilas Demolishes Hong Kong, 101-50.

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Now that is what you call a statement game.
Yesterday’s shock defeat left everyone wondering how Gilas would react today. Sure, there were the expected “we’ll bounce back” declarations, the avowing of ire-venting, but words are cheap and Gilas was called upon to put up or shut up.
Well, they put them up and they never stopped punching until the final siren sounded. By them, they had beaten the overmatched Hong Kong team into submission and were gunning to hit the century mark, as an exclamation point to their dominating performance.
Right from the get-go, the Filipinos wanted to erase the bitterness left by yesterday’s defeat in their collective mouths by strangling Hong Kong on both ends of the floor. They started the game off with a 12-0 blast and even led 20-2 before Hong Kong could gather themselves and try to make a game out of it.
Andray Blatche was his usual self, hitting threes and driving for finger rolls but this time, he wasn’t doing it alone. Jayson Castro, after being told by Coach Baldwin to be more aggressive on offense, took matters into his own hands and drove into the paint for lay ups and even drained back-to-back threes in a span of thirty seconds.
Dondon Hontiveros also drained his own set of back-to-back threes and before you knew it, we were up 51-22 at halftime.
The third quarter was more of the same, with Gilas rotating their players to give more game burn to Intal, Ganuelas-Rosser, and Romeo. And by the fourth, the only questions left were whether Gilas would hit the century mark and if they’d be able to double their lead against Hong Kong. And the answers to those questions are “yes” and “hell, yes”, with the final score set at 101-50.

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Why Gilas Lost To Palestine

Why Gilas Lost To Palestine

Yes, we lost. Yes, we were expected to win. Yes, it’s a historic upset. But none of those things matter now. What matters is that Gilas learns from this game and uses those lessons to get better (hopefully, in time for tomorrow’s game).

That being said, here are three things that contributed to our loss to Palestine.
Palestine, despite having a 6’8” center, outrebounded the Philippines 58-53. What’s worse is that Palestine totally owned Gilas on the offensive boards, with a 23-17 advantage. Those come out to 12 potential second-chance points. In a two point loss, denying them 2 of those offensive rebounds could have won us the game.
The Gilas big men actually rebounded well, led by Blatche with 12, Abueva collaring 8, Thoss with 6, and de Ocampo with 5. But it’s the box-out system that seems to be broken, with Palestine’s Rebound Brothers, the Sakakinis, getting 6 offensive rebounds each. Their big O-reb numbers were aided by our defensive scheme, something I will get into in the next paragraph.
Don’t get me wrong. I think Tab Baldwin is a great coach. But in today’s match, he was nowhere near to being a good coach. Palestine came out like a house on fire, swinging hard to try to get Gilas off-balance. Gilas teetered, but regained balance by the end of the first quarter.
By the start of the second quarter, Palestine had pieced together an action plan on how to take down Gilas. First, they went after Terence Romeo on defense. By overpowering Romeo on the defensive side, they forced Baldwin to pull him out and put in Jayson Castro, the stronger, better defender. This is right after Romeo scored 5 quick points, helping Gilas erect a 15point first quarter lead.
After Romeo sat, Palestine’s big men went hard at Blatche. They got Blatche to foul twice in the span of one minute, and again, Baldwin had to pull him out. Gilas thus had to play almost the entire second quarter without two of their most dynamic offensive players.
By the third quarter, Palestine had figured out Gilas’ two fatal weaknesses: their lack of reliable shooters and their lack of discipline on defense. To exploit Gilas’ lack of reliable shooters, Palestine switched from a man-to-man coverage to a zone, daring the Filipinos to shoot from distance. They did…to the tune of 7-30 (23.3%). After that, it was just a matter of time before the Palestineans clogged the lane and kept our slashers and rebounders out of the shaded area.
On offense, seeing that the Filipinos were employing a “switch on all” defensive system that didn’t run very smoothly, the Palestineans countered by sending cutters and pickers on every play, targeting the likes of Castro, Romeo and Hontiveros for mismatches. Each of these guards were victimized by switching mismatches, the most costly of which was the last Palestinean play, when Hontiveros had to foul the hulking Sakakini, who made the and-one play that gave Palestine the win.
I have mentioned in previous articles about the need for game tapes. This game has underscored this need even more. With the advent of the digital age, the excuse “we have no scouting tapes” just doesn’t cut it. Even the star-studded 2006 US basketball team fell prey to this excuse, losing to a Greek team that had no NBA players in their roster because the US players didn’t even know who was on the other team. And that was a team with Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwayne Wade on it.
Another thing we have to remember is that this isn’t a problem other teams have with Gilas. There are tons of online videos about Gilas 3.0. And you can bet your butts that every team in the tournament has watched those and broken down which Gilas player can do what. If this is what Palestine can do to us with prior info on what we can do, just imagine what China, South Korea and Iran will do with that information.
We must therefore go into the games prepared with countermeasures for what will surely be our opponents’ tactics to exploit our weaknesses. Having no answer to a hard zone or a dynamic motion offense is unacceptable.
This is hardest pill to swallow. There were almost a dozen “50-50” balls in the game and Palestine won all but two. This, again, is unacceptable for a team with the #puso calling card. Palestine is one of those teams to whom we do not give up too much height, heft or speed. If we can’t beat them to loose balls, how will we fare against speedier teams like South Korea and Chinese-Taipei or bigger, heftier teams like China and Iran?
Another observation for me that is hard to swallow is that the boys seemed shell-shocked by the end of the fourth quarter. No one wanted the ball, not even Andray Blatche, who memorably handed the ball off to Asi Taulava with the clock winding down. This led to a fastbreak basket for Palestine, which undermined our confidence even more. This is the type of situation that Jimmy Alapag lives for and we certainly missed him today.

That being said, tomorrow is another day. It’s another chance to show Asia what Gilas is actually made of and to exhibit the Gilas #puso.
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Gilas Loses to Palestine on Historic Upset, 75-73.

By halftime, all the telltale signs were there. The stagnant offense, the confused defense, the silly mistakes, and the lackluster effort. All bode ill for Gilas and it was a prophecy that would soon come to fruition.
In the first quarter, the enigma that was Palestine drew first blood, holding a tenuous lead until the halfway mark of the quarter, when Gilas tied the score at 7. Andray Blatche and the just-inserted Terence Romeo then took the Palestinean defense apart, scoring in a variety of ways both inside and outside. The quarter ended with the Philippines leading 27-12.
In the second quarter, Palestine showed just how fast they can adjust as a team, as well as how well disciplined they were. Realizing that the Philippines was a more dynamic offensive team with Romeo playing, they went at him on defense, forcing him out of the game in favor of the more systematic-on-offense-and-more-solid-on-defense Jayson Castro. They then went after Andray Blatche, who picked up two quick fouls and had to sit down too. Palestine then took advantage of the suddenly toothless Gilas and whittled down the lead to a mere 5 points, 45-40. 
In the third quarter, Gilas seemed to have found their footing, with Blatche and Castro combining to score 7 straight points. And then the Palestineans ditched the man-to-man defense they had been employing in the first half and went with a zone defense, practically daring the Gilas shooters to take their shots from three point range. They had also figured out that they could overwhelm the Gilas frontline by crashing the boards and came away with several second chance points and keep the Filipinos within striking distance, 59-55.
In the fourth quarter, Gilas started out aggressively again, getting the lead back up to 9 with half the quarter gone. But Palestine refused to fold, going on a 10-0 run before Tab Baldwin finally called timeout. A look at the faces of the players told the entire story of the game: the huge smiles of the Palestineans saying they’ve already won, even if they lose and the desperate uncertainty in the eyes of the Filipino players saying they didn’t know if they could win or even deserve to win tonight.

With a minute left in the game, Palestine finally took the lead again. Andray Blatche answered with a lay up. Plestine countered with a good drive and drop off for an and-1, going ahead by two. Castro dribbles away the time before Blatche gets blocked at the three-point line with barely a second left. Palestine taps the ball out in the out-of-bounds play and seals what is probably the biggest upset in FIBA Asia Championship history.

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Remembering Saudi Arabia: Why Gilas 3.0 Can’t Afford To Look Beyond the First Round

When the 2013 FIBA Asia Championships was held in Manila, the Philippines chose to be in Group A with Chinese-Taipei, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Among the three teams, Chinese-Taipei was considered, hands-down, Gilas’ most dangerous opponent. Jordan was also a cause for concern, especially with naturalized Jimmy Baxter in good form. As for Saudi Arabia? Well, everyone agreed that they would be the whipping boy of the group.
With Gilas playing Saudi Arabia on the first day of competitions, the general consensus was that the Philippine team would be getting a practice game right before the “serious” games.
And then, the game was actually played. Maybe the Gilas staff underestimated the Saudi players. Maybe they didn’t scout them well enough. Maybe the Saudis improved immensely from when they first qualified for the FIBA Asia Championships.
Whatever the reason may be, that first quarter of play put tiny icicles of doubt into the hearts of Gilas supporters everywhere, as Gilas looked shell shocked at the fast-breaking, board-crashing opponents. By the end of the first quarter, Saudi Arabia had a 2point lead, 16-14, and had put a dent in the Philippines’ mystique of invincibility.

To the credit of Gilas, they recovered pretty quickly and outscored the Saudis 12-21 in the second quarter. They also won the game by 12, a margin that many felt was way to little for a team that was supposedly heads and shoulders above its previous incarnation, the same team that beat Iran with Haddadi, Bahrami, and Kamrani in its lineup at Jones Cup held just the year before. 

My personal point of view was yes, we did take Saudi Arabia lightly. Gilas players did not have a clue who they should be guarding tightly at the three point line and who they should sag off on. They didn’t know who likes driving and popping, who has a tendency to cheat on D, who they can exploit on the block, who is a threat from the corner… These are the things that come with proper scouting, proper game planning, and even proper game management.
Of the three, we are probably most familiar with Hong Kong. Which means there aren’t any excuses for not taking their game apart. Duncan Reid, Lo Yi Ting, Chun Wai Wong, and Siu Wing Chan should all be watched closely, as any of them could break out with a monster game.
Palestine and Kuwait last played in the 2014 Asian Games and, to their credit, gave a good accounting of themselves. Kuwait has players who can score both inside and outside while Palestine is more a predatory team with a still developing half court game. Both squads are very tough and rugged (as most Middle Eastern teams are) but can be pressured into making mistakes due to inexperience with top-notch competition.
Again, the main problem Gilas will have is their unfamiliarity with their competition. Game tapes and scouts information should be a priority for Gilas as the worst thing that could happen is for us to be on the wrong side of a historic upset.  
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Gilas 3.0: Smaller, Faster, Nastier.

We are one week away from the FIBA-ASIA Championships and by now, the lineup for Gilas Pilipinas has been all but finalized.

Which means it’s time for us to analyze exactly what the strengths and weaknesses of Gilas 3.0 are.
SPEED – They say “speed kills”. In the case of Gilas 3.0’s upcoming opponents, this may actually prove to be true. The addition of players like Terence Romeo, Calvin Abueva and Matt Ganuelas-Rosser to cat-quick players like Jayson Castro and Gabe Norwood has given Gilas 3.0 end-to-end speed that promises to give other Asian teams a lot of trouble. So far, only Japan and maybe South Korea seem to have the quickness needed to keep up with Gilas.

ATHLETICISM – Matt Ganuelas-Rosser, Terence Romeo, Jayson Castro, Calvin Abueva, Gabe Norwood and Marc Pingris are all above average athletes. Against the likes of Iran and China, Gilas would really have to rely on this athleticism to offset the other team’s considerable height advantage. It would be interesting to see MGR/Norwood take on Iran’s Kamrani (a very strong and athletic point guard) in an effort to disrupt the Iranian system.
TOUGHNESSS – Old hands Asi Taulava and Sonny Thoss together with new recruits Calvin Abueva and, weirdly enough, JC Intal showed in the Jones Cup that they can be as physical as they need to be. The game versus Russia was a great case study, as well as the game versus Iran (even though Gilas lost that one). Taulava and Thoss never backed down against taller, heftier opponents, who needed to physically manhandle the duo to get their points. Even then, only Haddadi was truly too much for the pair. Abueva was a revelation as well, as his peskiness (often to the dismay of his PBA opponents) translated well in the international game.
HEIGHT – This goes without saying. Even with the still rotund Andray Blatche on the roster, we will be among the smallest teams in the tournament. Ranidel de Ocampo is a great stretch four in the PBA but in FIBA Asia tourneys, he’ll be guarded by quick small forwards who’ll still be more than a couple of inches taller. And that’s going to be case in every position, except for when Blatche is in the lineup.
SHOOTING – Gilas 3.0 has one certified shooter: Dondon Hontiveros. The others are all scorers who can hit jumpers on occasion. Gabe Norwood has been particularly bad lately, Ganuelas-Rosser has barely taken any, Abueva and Intal are unreliable and RDO still has not recovered his touch after missing time with an injury.
COHESION – Gilas 3.0 is racing against the clock, in terms of preparation time. We can’t ignore the fact that the team has improved immensely in the last 3 weeks or so but we also can’t ignore the fact that every other national team has had more preparation time than Gilas had. The chemistry is much better now than during the Estonia tournament you have to wonder how much better they would be if they had 3 months to prepare instead of just basically a month and a half.
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