The perimeter and three-point shooting of Gilas Pilipinas will determine their fate in the World Cup
Photo by Tristan Tamayo
The Philippine men’s national basketball team will be returning to the world stage in less than three days. At this point, the only thing they should be thinking about is how they’re going to defeat powerhouses Italy, Serbia, and African champion Angola. The Philippine team will have to deliver their best performance yet and at least make it to the top two spots in their bracket in order to advance to the next round of the FIBA World Cup.
What Gilas Pilipinas is currently facing reminds me of my time in high school. I never excelled in any of my subjects (well, besides physical education), so whenever exam season arrived, I knew I was going to go through the toughest weeks of my life. Being in a place where I was at risk of failing a number of different subjects, I knew that scoring at least 75 percent in every single exam was absolutely crucial.
As with our national team, every single game is going to determine if they’ve got what it takes to represent the country in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
According to Gilas head coach Yeng Guiao, the coaching staff is all hands on deck with their preparations, especially for the game against Italy where they will meet Oklahoma City Thunder big man Danilo Gallinari and former NBA veteran Luigi Datome. If Gilas beats Italy on Sunday, not only will they be building much needed momentum, they will also significantly have less pressure to defeat Serbia.
“We have tunnel vision on Italy because we feel that’s going to be our most important game. All our resources with our scouting, time have been focused on that,” says Guiao.
Guiao guns for Gilas Pilipinas’ perimeter shooting
The Filipinos are entering the World Cup without its two best shooters Marcio Lassiter and Matthew Wright. The team will be depending on RR Pogoy to score as much as he can from the perimeter, which is the team’s biggest weapon in the World Cup. This was proven during their two tune-up games in Spain where the team won a game against Australian professional team Adelaide 36ers.
“When we’re shooting well, it becomes a little bit easier to win games,” says Guiao.”It’s the same way in Spain. The only bad game we played was the game against Congo when we shot really bad from the outside. But the three games that we won in Spain, we were really shooting well.”
The team’s official 12-man roster is composed of Andray Blatche, June Mar Fajardo, Troy Rasio, Japeth Aguilar, Pogoy, Gabe Norwood, Mark Barroca, Paul Lee, Raymund Almazan, Kiefer Ravena, and new recruits Robert Bolick and CJ Perez. Gilas will be putting their World Cup faith on their three-point shooting and hopefully get to produce from inside the paint.
All in for the World Cup
Though Gilas should rely on their shooting, it won’t be enough for them to advance. Take the USA men’s basketball team, for example. Even if their roster is composed of a lot of shooters from the NBA, the team is still facing doubt on whether or not they could win the championship. In a tournament where teams are both talented and tall, Gilas needs to treat every defensive and offensive possession like it’s the last game they will ever play.
But then again, passion, enthusiasm, and dedication have never really been issues for Gilas Pilipinas. It’s just that they’re always either outperformed or overwhelmed by their opponents. According to Norwood, the team is similar to the 2014 Gilas squad that competed in Spain. In 2014, they shocked the world and made history when they appeared in the World Cup for the first time in 40 years. And all this despite their 1-4 standing. This year, Gilas Pilipinas aims to make history as well—but with a different script.
Exam season has arrived once again and the Philippines has one shot to determine their fate. If four years ago the team announced its arrival on the world basketball stage, this year is all about proving they have what it takes to take on high-caliber teams from around the world.