by: Bong Paredes
After reading about members of the Gilas pool withdrawing from the team one after another, from Castro to Parks and now Scottie Thompson, I can’t help but be worried about the makeup and eventual performance of this team. The 2019 FIBA World Cup is just around the corner and while teams like Iran and Australia are getting most if not all of their top talent, we already lost three for a variety of reasons (that are understandable to be fair). Plus, with FIBA not likely recognizing the likes of Clarkson and Pringle as locals, we need to look deeper in the talent pool to fortify this team. When I say deeper, I don’t mean just the PBA but the collegiate ranks as well
Here are the players that I think should be given a fair look (though a couple of them already joined the practices last night, like Perez and Bolick).
Aside from the obvious physical gifts that he has, CJ has shown incremental improvements in his game since he joined the PBA as last year’s number 1 overall pick. Perez increased his scoring output even with the presence of imports this conference from 16 ppg in the Philippine Cup to 23 ppg this conference.
CJ’s three-point shooting would be an integral weapon for Gilas, shooting 48% while attempting 5 per game. His overall FG% sits at 55% which is awesome for a guard, though he needs to develop more consistency in his free throws because it dropped almost 20 percentage points from 72% to 54% this conference. His pick and roll game needs more work as he tends to start making his move before the screener establishes position and attacks too early that he allows his defender that extra space where he can recover faster.
Defensively, he has enormous potential. He reads the passing lanes well that’s responsible for a lot of his highlight reel dunks this conference. He can stay in front of virtually anyone and with a sound defensive philosophy, he will be a great defensive lead guard in the mold of Avery Bradley and Patrick Beverly Beverly as seen in this video from ESPN 5:
Though he struggled in the middle of the Philippine Cup, Robert Bolick is solidifying his spot as one of the most promising talent in the PBA. He has the ability to get to where he wants to be at any given time against any defender while having a good enough court vision and savvy to find teammates in scoring positions. As evidenced by his Commissioner’s Cup averages of 17 ppg and 4.43 apg and this video from the ESPN 5.
Bolick is just starting to experience what it’s like to finish at the rim at this level with imports around the 6’9 range so he still struggles at times in that regard. Very streaky when it comes to his three point shot (31%) but if he hits one or two, teams better treat him like he is Klay because he will make the opposing team pay.
I haven’t seen enough from him defensively for me to say that he is great at that end but he certainly works hard on defense and communicates well enough that he is not a liability when he eventually plays for Gilas (in the future if not this time).
Juan Gomez De Liano
Due to school commitments and the PBA’s wealth of point guards, it’s highly unlikely JGDL will even be considered for a spot. For me though, he is the best point guard that we have that is not part of this pool. He led the UP Fighting Maroons to a runner up finish the previous UAAP Season but what made me convinced that he should be part of this team now is his performance at the Dubai International Basketball Tournament earlier this year with Mighty Sports.
Even with his stellar UAAP showing, I was surprised at the level of confidence, poise, physicality and willingness to take the leadership mantle especially with teammates like Justin Brownlee who is one of the best imports in the history of the PBA who’s in his prime, CBA import Randolph Morris and Jason Brickman who at one point led the US Division 1 NCAA in assists and was the MVP of the ABL with the Westport Malaysia Dragons.
JGDL would score in bunches against top level club teams in Asia parading multiple imports by attacking the rim, dropping dimes and raining three’s. He can switch from 1 to 2 seamlessly too by playing the scoring guard when he is with Brickman and playing the point when he is with Jeremiah Gray and Roosevelt Adams. This video on youtube from an uploader named jjson is a high level overview of what he can do:
He also takes pride in his defense and in my opinion, could be a better player than Arizona State’s Filipino-American starting point guard Remy Martin.
With older brother Keifer about to make his Gilas comeback and with the UAAP season still a month or so away, it’s easy to forget another Ravena that is very much qualified to join this team in China right now. Yes, I said it, right now!
Does he still have a lot of holes in his game? Yes. Is he better than Ray Parks? Not yet, but are there wing players in the PBA right now that has a combination of physicality and versatility that you can unequivocally say that is more suited in FIBA play? I would argue that there is none at the level of Thirdy.
I think Thirdy has 3 main flaws in his game and would like to explain why he should be part of this team in spite of them. Here are his 3 main areas of opportunities:
- Uber aggressiveness or “gigil” in Filipino
- Ball handling skills for his size
- Inconsistent shooting
The first one is pretty obvious since we can all telegraph that he sometimes looks for the “highlight” block and trail or follow-up dunk. He is always “gigil” on the floor. One way of remedying that is to put him in a situation like in Gilas where he gets to practice and play daily with seasoned veterans so he gets to see the better reads in the flow of the game.
Second, his still improving handles might not allow him to be a lead attacker at this level but with Coach Yeng’s system and the veteran players he will be playing with, he does not need to be. Thirdy also comes from a program where he is coached by Tab Baldwin and he has shown good basketball sense and willingness to take on a lesser role which he will get.
His lack of a consistent three point shot, while still a problem is not a deal breaker because he has a decent mid-range game to keep the defense honest. All these holes in his game can be remedied through experience, being around better players and overall competition which this World Cup can bring.
While there are dozens of players in the PBA and in College that deserves to be considered, I feel that these three will give us the most benefit if one or two of them gets the nod because of these three factors.
- We will have players that are 25 and under that can be “veterans” that can usher future Gilas iterations. This is essential as we are perhaps the only team in the World stage that almost always have most if not all of the roster consist of players 27 and older in the last 15-20 years.
- There can never be too many “athletes” in one team. Bolick and to a greater extent Perez and Ravena will give us defenders that can switch and match up on both ends at the FIBA level.
- Seeing how our best young players perform at this stage gives us a much better gauge where the level of play in our country and our PBA stack up against the rest of the world. Having the likes of Jason Castro, Paul Lee and Mark Barocca on our team since 2011 or 2014 is good but it also seems like we don’t have younger players that are on the same level that can take the mantle which isn’t the case obviously and what Castro was alluding to as well when he declined to join the team.
Basketball is the number one sport in our country and I truly believe that one of the reasons we haven’t grown into a basketball superpower in spite of our passion for the game and the burgeoning talent that we have, is our unwillingness to grow with the rest of the world by just playing in leagues and tournaments here at home.
We will never be the biggest and the strongest, but some of the best teams in the world aren’t that much bigger than us. Who says we don’t have size anyways? Take a quick look at our FIBA World Under 19 squad and get back to me after.