Gilas Pilipinas: The Jones Cup Experience
The recent Jones cup stint of Gilas Pilipinas not only proved our great desire to perform well in FIBA Asia 2015 in Changsha, China but also served as a gauge on how the coaches are preparing our team. I was really amazed on the intensity of the players especially right on the first game. Their desire to get back against a loss to the Taiwanese in FIBA 2013 combined with the running swing offense of coach Baldwin worked well against the Taiwanese. However, the win sucked the wind out of our players which resulted in a dismal showing in the next game against Korea.
Evidently, our players are very motivated especially for the newcomers like Terrence Romeo and Abueva who are all out to prove that they badly want to be part of the team. I think the presence of Jordan Clarkson also motivated the players, most of whom showcased their talents to show JC that this team is worthy of going to the Olympics and his inclusion would be an insurance to qualify for Rio 2016. The large crowd and presence of our kababayans in Taiwan also ignited the good showing of the Gilas players that night.
The game against the Russian team proved that this team won’t back out from rough play and also proved the resilience of our players. I was really worried about Romeo that he may get hurt since at that point he was already giving the impression of being the most important player of the team after two impressive games.
The win against Japan proved that we have a deep pool inspite of the absences of some ex Gilas players. Even the “old” players like Asi and Dondon seemed to be rejuvenated in rejoining the national team. That game against New Zealand was age defying for both and showed their worthiness. Asi could barely jump but his huge heart and intensity matched his great desire to serve flag and country as long as he can. Dondon showed flashes of Allan Caidic and he really carried us in that game.
The game against Iran showed our vulnerability against a tall and good defending team. This game exposed our lack of ceiling with the non-joining of Junemar Fajardo and absence of Blatche. The second chances of Iran really hurt us while Haddadi had an easy look at the basket most of the time since no one taller than 6’10” was in front of him. The pressure defense also disrupted the offense designed by Tab Baldwin which left the highly experienced coach to ponder how to suppress Iran’s whole game resiliency on defense.
While writing this article, I read that Asi Taulava, Sonny Thoss and Andre Blatche were the three big players selected to man the center slot and share the burden of guarding Haddadi. I am not really sure if this is enough but from what Asi showed against NZ, Thoss heroics in the USA game, and Blatche’s reputation, i am really hopeful that this three men will pour all their strengths to guard the paint and secure all those important rebounds because i believe that this will be the key to winning the FIBA Asia gold and the return of Philippines to the Olympic arena which we have not witnessed for a long long time.