July 11, 2019
The NBA landscape has been shaken to the core, and that gives us enough entertainment with speculating, debating and trash talking the “new” fan bases (hello Celtic fans turned Clipper fans) while we await the most anticipated NBA season ever.
We should never forget that there is an ongoing PBA season, something you can say for most of the year. What true hoops fans should also note is the performance of our FIBA U19 squad. Fans stayed up to see them lose, but remember, this is the World Stage and they went up against strong European teams. No surprise, since this is World Cup.
The Philippines was the only Asian team among the pool of the world’s best aside from China, and they trounced them for their only victory. Still a very respectable stand considering they lost their twin tower (and perhaps, their overall best player) in AJ Edu.
The team’s performance showed that the future of Philippine basketball is in good hands. Aside from Kai Sotto and Edu, there were also big man prospects Geo Chiu and Carl Tamayo. Dave Ildefonso balled out, and proved that he could become a primetime scorer in the future. Ironically, this particular team was not too deep in the guard position, something we take pride in.
These are young players and they could still be developed. The Philippines as a country is more challenged than other players in the younger age brackets because by nature, Filipinos are late bloomers in terms of physical growth, and you can see that many of their opponents are taller and more muscular. This is why we should appreciate their feat, even more than the Senior Gilas boys did.
Recent additions to our World Cup team
Speaking of the Senior Gilas team, they have faced some challenging situations lately. Jayson Castro begged off and so did Ray Parks. The positive side is that there were no allegations of politics or corporate rivalry, since Castro plays for the MVP side.
Still, there was some shade thrown by Matthew Wright, a Phoenix guard who played his way back to Gilas. He mentioned that “you don’t say no to Gilas” and (a player should) “drop everything” when he is invited. It may have been inadvertent, but shade is shade nonetheless.
If we were the dominant country like the US, refusing a stint with the national team seems forgivable. But you still see players who have had extended playoff runs like James Harden and CJ McCollum committing.
At least in Parks position, there are worthy replacements. The first four players drafted last year all play the same position, and the top three are really showing their worth. CJ Perez and Robert Bolick have proven that they are worthy of their selections. Paul Desiderio is struggling though. Frankly, while my heart goes out for our very own “Atin ‘to,” I really thought his game would be hard to translate in the pros because of his size.
Looking at the future
We still need to develop reliable bigs that can fit the international game. We have seen the limitations of Junemar Fajardo and Japeth Aguilar, our resident bigs by default. Kai Sotto and Aj Edu are still our best, and only bets at this point.
But we do have wings and forwards at the 6’6” to 6’8” range. They need to develop decent shooting range and be quick enough to switch on a pick-and-roll defense. Justine Baltazar of DLSU is a very good prospect. He was not in the original 23 for 23 selection of coach Chot Reyes, but he could develop into a Kevin Durant type of player.
Another dilemma for Gilas is to address their naturalized player situation. The hope is that when Kai and Edu develop, we can naturalize a player that is not confined to a big man role. Andray Blatche may not be as effective in the coming years, so we need to find a replacement.
Recent PBA imports like Terrence Jones and even Chris McCullough, legitimate NBA players had Gilas fans salivating, but Angelo Kouame was also proposed. The Ateneo stalwart is a legit 7-footer, young and very teachable under coach Tab Baldwin.
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