Andray Blatche and other familiar faces are returning for Gilas Pilipinas
Photo from FIBA
Gilas Pilipinas’ FIBA campaign can be summed up in two expositions—either they’re stagnating at their best or they’re regressing at their worst.
Entering the sixth and final window of the Asian qualifiers, the Filipinos face a do-or-die situation where they will have to pull off the game of their lives to earn a spot in international basketball’s most prestigious tournament. The Philippines went down in their last two home games and is now looking to bounce back in their must-win games against Kazakhstan and Qatar.
There are several key factors to explain Gilas’ slump. A couple of significant players had to serve their respective suspensions after the infamous brawl with the Aussie Boomers last year, and it’s had ripple effects on the entire team. New players came in to fill in the voids left by players like Andray Blatche, Troy Rosario, Calvin Abueva, and RR Pogoy. Not to mention that a new head coach was also added in the middle of the shuffle.
With a revamped lineup, it’s easy to understand that Gilas has failed to develop a team chemistry given that they only had two weeks to practice and familiarize themselves with each other’s games. But more than that, the team’s lack of “maturity,” as described by head coach Yeng Guiao himself, during pressure moments also played a part in their losses to Iran and Kazakhstan.
Gilas is on the outskirts of the World Cup, holding on for dear life as they try to get past Group F where they’re sitting in fourth, just behind Japan and one win ahead of Kazakhstan, and secure one of four FIBA Asia slots.
Yet as they start to prepare for a push to qualify, familiar faces will finally be making their comeback, headlined by Blatche, who served a three-game suspension; Pogoy, who is set to complete his five-game ban; Raymond Almazan; and recently crowned PBA Governors Cup Finals MVP Mark Barroca, who was a member of the original Gilas squad under Rajko Toroman.
Joining them are Jayson Castro, Paul Lee, Scottie Thompson, Marcio Lassiter, Gabe Norwood, Troy Rosario, Japeth Aguilar, Poy Erram, June Mar Fajardo, and Christian Standhardinger as a backup naturalized player.
With a deep and solid lineup, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Al Panlilio strongly believes that the squad can still climb their way to the top.
“As this window is critical in our campaign, we would like to thank again the support of the PBA for making the PBA players available. We are also happy to announce that Andray Blatche has committed to help our drive to qualify for the FIBA World Cup in China.”
The Philippines will start their final window campaign against Qatar on Feb. 21 before face Kazakhstan on Feb. 25.