Prior to their triumph against China in a pocket tournament Bologna, Italy, Gilas Head Coach Tab Baldwin selected the 12 names who would represent the Philippines as our National Team. The names were announced by Gilas assistant Coach Jimmy Alapag yesterday in a special broadcast.
Despite eyebrows raised by the decision to omit FIBA 2016 Asia Championship standout Calvin Abueva (which Baldwin admitted having lost sleep over) and 2012 Jones Cup MVP LA Tenorio, Baldwin stood by his decision, saying, “If you have the best people in the process, you have the best chance of succeeding.”
The final lineup is comprised of Gilas veterans Japeth Aguilar, Andre Blatche, Jayson Castro, Jeff Chan, June Mar Fajardo, Gabe Norwood, Ranidel de Ocampo, and Marc Pingris, and Terrence Romeo, while Bobby Ray Parks, Ryan Reyes, and Troy Rosario will be donning the Gilas colors for the first time.
Alapag described the new lineup as, “a versatile team with lots of size, speed and guys who can play multi-position,” as evidenced by the inclusion of Aguilar, Pingris, and De Ocampo, who had the added value of height, which could prove crucial against their foreign opponents. He went on to say that Castro, Fajardo and Norwood were selected for their “leadership and assertiveness on the court”, to say nothing of the experience each has had in past Gilas lineups.
Romeo’s inclusion needs little justification after yesterday, wherein he was able to secure the lead for the Philippines that paved the way to yesterday’s win over the Chinese team. In a 72-69 game, Romeo was responsible for 18 points, while NBA and Gilas vet Blatche racked up a double-double with 12-points and 14-rebounds.
Of the new blood, Rosario, who barely missed out on being included in last year’s lineup, was noteworthy for his much-improved abilities, evidenced by his double doubles as a member of the Gilas cadet squad in the 2015 SEABA Stankovic Cup in Bangkok. Fellow former Gilas cadet Parks, who’d previously made headlines last year for being accepted into the NBA D-League also brings international-level talent to the team. As for Reyes, the Olympic Qualifers will be his chance to demonstrate his outside shooting skills paired with his talents as a dependable combo guard.
The newly-minted Gilas’ win over tournament stalwart China yesterday was a step in the right direction following the Philippine squad’s loss last week to Turkey in a tune-up game. As they hone their teamwork and in-game rapport for the upcoming Olympic Qualifiers, the nation will be on hand all the way to cheer for their heroes.