Give And Go

The preparations of Gilas Pilipinas for the FIBA Basketball World Cup in China beginning late next month took further form on Monday night with the naming of the player pool from which the team representing the Philippines will be drawn from.

National team coach Yeng Guiao and the rest of the Gilas think tank decided to expand the pool to include players that could potential help in our campaign in the prestigious basketball spectacle happening from Aug. 31 to Sept. 15.

Heading the 19-man pool is naturalized player Andray Blatche, joined by Gilas staples June Mar Fajardo, Japeth Aguilar, Marcio Lassiter, Mark Barroca, Kiefer Ravena, Paul Lee, Roger Pogoy, Matthew Wright, Raymond Almazan, Troy Rosario, Gabe Norwood, Poy Erram and Beau Belga.

Seniors team newbies and Philippine Basketball Association rookies Robert Bolick and CJ Perez are also part of the pool and so do naturalized players Christian Standhardinger and Stanley Pringle.

Also added to the list of players submitted to the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, and correspondingly approved by the federation, was Filipino-American National Basketball Association star Jordan Clarkson.

From the pool of 19, the players later will be narrowed to 12 who will see action in the World Cup.

Looking at the pool, one thing stands out for this space is how it is not necessarily “All Star-laden,” representative of Guiao as a coach and the way to go, really, in international competitions.

Sure, Fajardo, Lee, Aguilar, Ravena and Rosario, among others, are there, but them being stars in the PBA is not the sole reason they are part of the pool but more of what they can bring to the table to help the Philippines’ cause in the World Cup.

An All-Star team like in the past is no longer an assurance that we will do well in international hoops wars, and going anew for serviceability over star value in this case is a tack in the right direction.

I like the composition of the players as we have shot and playmakers, shooters, defensive and athletic players to choose and craft our attack from.

It’s not the biggest of teams relative to what we are set to face in the World Cup but we have some ceiling and heft to compete.

Reports have it that Blatche arrived at the weekend in game shape and determined to make another solid run in the quadrennial tournament; which is well and good as competitions past had shown, how far he goes so does the team. A healthier kuya (big brother) Andray is surely a boon to the Philippine team.

It remains to be seen if Clarkson, Standhardinger and Pringle as naturalized players will get to play for the Philippines in the World Cup but their inclusion in the pool is still significant.

“C-Stand” and “Stan The Man” being in the practices at the very least could help the team prepare better with their experience playing in international competitions, and their input will be valuable.

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ Clarkson is hoped to play as a local player for Gilas under an appeal made by the SBP to FIBA.

With him in the pool we could have another potentially solid local player, whose possible partnership with former NBA campaigner Blatche could do wonders for our campaign.

In the World Cup the top basketball teams are set to descend and most surely it will be a tough road for Gilas.

But it is reassuring that the team is at least making sure that we have a fighting chance by forming a competitive team and exhausting the best possible ways to go about it.

All the best to Coach Yeng and the rest of the team. Laban Pilipinas!


Michael Angelo S. Murillo has been a columnist since 2003. He is a BusinessWorld reporter covering the Sports beat.