Gilas’ ideal replacements should FIBA hand out suspensions
By Mark Patriarca
The upcoming Second Round of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers is where the real and tougher battles are imminent for Gilas Pilipinas, with only the top 3 out of 6 nations automatically reaching basketball’s grandest stage.
Gilas is now in the newly-formed Group F, carrying over a 4-2 mark as against Australia’s 5-1, Iran’s 5-1, Kazakhstan’s 3-3, Japan’s 2-4 and Qatar’s 2-4.
However, Gilas would likely be in the onset of the Second Round with only limited options as 9 of its players, who are basically the team’s core, are expected to face suspensions for their role in the unfortunate “Thrilla at the Arena”.
This leads to possible suspension of Gilas naturalized player Andray Blatche, Terrence Romeo, Jayson Castro, Japeth Aguilar, Calvin Abueva, Mathew Wright, Carl Bryan Cruz, RR Pogoy and Troy Rosario. Reserves Allein Maliski and Jio Jalalon, — who both hit someone during the brawl — could also face punishment from FIBA.
So who would be left to fight for Gilas?
Four-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo, national team captain Gabe Norwood and new kid Baser Amer would likely be shoo-ins for the team, leaving coach Chot Reyes with 9 slots left to fill.
Here are 9 players that Gilas should consider in the event of FIBA suspensions:
Raymond Almazan’s length and athleticism is almost that of Aguilar’s which will come in handy in defending the interior for the Philippines. Almazan has represented Gilas in the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup and will be a welcome addition for Reyes’ squad with his high motor and perimeter shooting.
Without Blatche, Gilas can field in another naturalized big man to help Fajardo man the paint. Christian Standhardinger can do exactly like that. He has already shown his wares at the international stage where he helped Gilas last year at the William Jones Cup and the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup.
The “Lee-thal Weapon” is no stranger in the international competition. With Kiefer Ravena out for doping ban, the national team needs to dug deep to acquire top-notch guards to fill the void left by Castro and Romeo. Lee last played for Gilas in the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain. He was also instrumental in Gilas’ win over China in the battle for third place of the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup where he sunk three game-winning free throws.
Bobby Ray Parks Jr.
With Gilas in dire need of speed and ceiling, Bobby Ray Parks Jr. should come in as number one option for the position. The two-time ABL local MVP can bring down the ball and plays like a guard with his big frame. He can also give nightmares to opposing team’s ball handler or top scorer thru his pesky defense.
Maybe it’s Beau Belga’s turn to once again don the Philippine colors. A known member of “Extra Rice Inc.”, Belga can throw his weight at opposing bigs together with his decent mid and three-point range. He was included in the bronze medal finish of Gilas in the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup in Wuhan, China. Belga was added to the Gilas Pilipinas training pool that competed in the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain, and was considered the “13th man”, since he was the last man cut from the 12-man national team roster.
Lassiter is the only pioneer Gilas player on this list, being part of the first Gilas program back in 2011. With three-point shooting a potent weapon when it comes to the international stage, Lassiter definitely fits the bill as a replacement for Nationals’ resident shooters RR Pogoy and Matthew Wright.
Scottie is a not your typical point guard. In the PBA, he’s one of the most feared rebounder in spite of his 6-foot-1 height. When in zone, Thompson can easily fill up the stat sheet with his all-around prowess in game. Adding the fact that he is only 24 years old, he can be the future facilitator of Gilas for years to come.
For his position, “The Muscleman” is surely undersized for a power forward. But looking at the trend where Marc Pingris and Ranidel de Ocampo both thrived in the land of the giants, there’s no denying that Manuel can also replicate their roles as the team’s resident post player. Oh and I also forgot to mention that he is the local top scorer (23.8 points) of the ongoing PBA Commisioner’s Cup with 6’10” imports protecting the paint.
In danger of losing both Castro and Romeo (plus Ravena) is a huge blow for Gilas as they will need a steady veteran presence to man the point. Enter “The Lieutenant”, whose resume for international leagues has always been impressive, being the Jones Cup MVP in year 2012, a silver medal finish in 2013 FIBA Asia championships, and lastly, bronze for 2014 FIBA Asia Cup.