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Gilas Pilipinas: The Squad, The Coach, and The System


PhilBoxing.com




The Gilas Pilipinas men’s national basketball team has about a year left to prepare for what could be its greatest chance to showcase Pinoy basketball on the world stage. The team’s composition, the head coach, and the system to be adopted, however, all seem to remain uncertain as of this writing.

THE SQUAD. While the Gilas pool currently competing in the qualifiers are composed mostly of amateurs and cadets, its final lineup still remains in flux. Corporate rivals SMC and MVP group may have expressed their willingness to cooperate in a recent meeting geared at creating the best possible Gilas squad for the 2023 FIBA World Cup, the availability of the desired PBA players are still yet to be determined.

It is expected that an amalgam of the current roster of cadets and PBA stars will comprise the 12-man squad. Barring major injuries or sudden change of heart of SMC bosses, 6-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo should man the paint, alongside fellow 2014 FIBA World Cup veteran Japeth Aguilar.

Gilas standout Dwight Ramos is most likely a shoo-in, given his consistent and steady play in all his national team stints. Keifer Ravena, for his part, should provide a savvy veteran presence in the backcourt. LeBron Lopez, William Navarro, Carl Tamayo, Geo Chiu, Kevin Quiambao, and Rhenz Abando will have to impress their coaches more in the upcoming qualifiers to net consideration.

PBA stars CJ Perez, Roger Pogoy, Poy Erram, Troy Rosario, Matthew Wright, and reigning MVP Scottie Thompson may also be in the running for a possible Gilas call-up.

THE COACH. Who will call the shots? Is it Nenad Vucinic or will Chot Reyes eventually take over as soon as he wraps up his TNT obligations in the PBA? Tim Cone was announced to be part of the Gilas coaching staff, but no specifics as to which capacity were mentioned.

Tab Baldwin would have been the ideal choice. He is a proven entity, even on the world stage. His system worked and he commanded respect, both from his players and the FIBA game officials. Furthermore, he can also offer a sense of continuity and chemistry. Unfortunately for him and for us, basketball-loving Pinoy fans, politics got in the way.

Nenad Vucinic, however, may be a very good alternative. He steered the UP Fighting Maroons in ending Baldwin’s and Ateneo Blue Eagles’ reign in the UAAP. Interestingly, he also topped Baldwin’s 4 Coach of the Year Titles in New Zealand’s National Basketball League (NBL), winning the same award on 5 separate occasions (1996, 1998, 2001, 2005, and 2006).

THE SYSTEM.

Both Tab and Nenad underscore player and ball movement – less dribbles, more screens, and more passes on offense… typical European type of basketball. Their defensive schemes put emphasis on ball pressure by switchable players who can effectively defend both individually and as a key part of a defensive unit.

But what happens if and when Chot Reyes takes the reins? Will Gilas eventually go back to the obsolete dribble-drive offense he is very well-known for? Reyes seems so enamored with that type of offense that was best suited for the type of players Andray Blatche, Jayson Castro, Jimmy Alapag, and Ranidel de Ocampo were. The problem, however, is that we don’t have those types of players in the roster anymore.

When faced with bigger, yet more agile defenders, the dribble-drive offense stagnates. More dribbles result in more wasted time on the offensive end. A pass is more efficient, less predictable, and less prone to turnovers. Pundits and fans alike know this. Chot Reyes, on the other hand, seems to be geared at proving us all wrong. Will his ego stand in the way or will he step aside, just be a program director, and let those who know the system that works do their job? Only time can tell.


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Reylan Loberternos.


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