For the first time in 36 years, The Philippines will be among the 24 nations who will be competing in this year’s FIBA Basketball World Cup, which will run from August 30 to September 15 in Spain.
The final 12-man roster for the national team is now in place. Gabe Norwood, Japeth Aguilar, June Mar Fajardo, Ranidel de Ocampo, LA Tenorio, Marc Pingris, Jeff Chan, Jimmy Alapag, Gary David, Jayson Castro, Paul Lee, and newly naturalized player Andray Blatche are all in the fray to don the country’s red, blue, and white for the tournament.
The tournament consists of four groups, each containing six national teams to play each other during the preliminary round. The Philippines’ men’s national team, simply known through their moniker Gilas Pilipinas, will be part of Group B which also includes Croatia, Greece, Puerto Rico, Argentina, and Senegal. The top four teams from each group will advance to the next succeeding rounds and onto the championship.
This will be biggest tournament that Gilas Pilipinas will face this year, as they encounter experienced teams in the highest stage of basketball competition. In fact, Gilas Pilipinas will face teams that are composed of legitimate NBA veterans. This could prove to be an uphill climb for the team, which is why Gilas Pilipinas will be considered as one of the underdogs of the tournament.
Given all of these, what are the chances for Gilas Pilipinas to win games for the FIBA World Cup? Let’s find out the strengths and weaknesses that the national team will have for the upcoming tournament.
Their primary strength will be shooting from the 3-point line. The team will have to rely heavily on shooters Jeff Chan, Jimmy Alapag, and Paul Lee to score from the perimeter. Due to the possibility that the big men of the team will struggle to score against much taller opponents, there is a need to stretch their offense, especially from beyond the arc.
Another strength of the team is quickness. Jayson Castro, LA Tenorio, and Paul Lee are among the best point guards in Philippine basketball today because of their very high basketball IQ, quickness, agility, and uptempo style of play. The team will have to focus on their guard play to control the pace of the game and limit the turnovers of the team.
One of the most important strengths that Gilas Pilipinas possesses is team chemistry. The team has established a good chemistry among their players and with their coach, Chot Reyes, evident in their bond outside the court. This is vital, in order for them to adjust quickly in terms of the style of play especially when facing tough opponents at the start of the tournament. Team chemistry also boosts morale, and consequently the team’s will to fight in the face of adversity. This was in full display as the whole country rallied behind the team with the motto “Puso!”, all the way until their second-place finish.
In terms of the weaknesses that Gilas Pilipinas need to overcome is the major height disadvantage. The big men of the team, Marc Pingris, Japeth Aguilar, June Mar Fajardo, and Andray Blatche, may have a hard time to score in the paint when there are 7-footers constantly roaming the shaded area. They need to find an alternative way to defend against taller and more athletic big men on other teams.
Another glaring weakness of the team is defense. The team might have a difficult time in defending taller and more athletic players of other teams. There might not be enough defensive players on the team to defend against more talented and more athletic players, starting with the exclusion of Jared Dillinger from the National squad. Gilas will have to rely on Gabe Norwood to cover the opposing team’s best player for extended amounts of time.
Despite these, the team have shown more than once that the passion and motivation to play the game of basketball will always be there. While there might be a shortage of scoring and stops on defense, there will never be a shortage of “Laban Pilipinas, Puso!” chants to turn a losing effort around. The fans will also prove to be vital. With the huge population of Filipinos in Spain, Gilas will always have home court advantage whenever they play. Filipinos are one of the most basketball-savvy fans in the world. The loud cheers from the Filipino fans will give the team inspiration and spirit to fuel their campaign in the FIBA World Cup.
Will Gilas Pilipinas have a great run in the FIBA World Cup? Will the team advance to the next round? The answers will all unfold soon as Gilas Pilipinas embarks on its epic journey in the upcoming FIBA Basketball World Cup. Laban Pilipinas!