Not a few were surprised when veteran point guard LA Tenorio and superstar Calvin Abueva were left out of the final 12-man Gilas Pilipinas roster for the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament here in Manila.
Were coach Tab Baldwin and his crew right in dropping such popular, accomplished, and talented players, though?
Even before those fateful cuts, I had a funny feeling Calvin Abueva wouldn’t be among the dirty dozen left to play in the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament. After seeing him play sparingly in the team’s loss to Italy, I kinda felt something was off. Whispers left and right (shout out to social media) of some off-the-court issues fueled my doubts.
Tenorio, meanwhile, should have been this team’s Jimmy Alapag. He’s certainly not meant to be this team’s most fearsome playmaker. This isn’t 2012 anymore, after all. But the things he could have brought — leadership and experience — are still valuable. In my opinion, however, given the scoring punch of Jayson Castro and Terrence Romeo, along with the versatility of guys like Ray Parks, Ryan Reyes, and Gabe Norwood — all of whom can also play the point — Tenorio became the most expendable player outside of the frontliners.
To be honest, I would’ve picked Marc Pingris to get the boot instead of LA. I felt that having six bigs (yes, granted, Ping isn’t exactly “big” in the international game) was just too much, but that’s just not how the cookie crumbled.
Our Gilas Pilipinas braintrust saw the potential match-ups waiting for them here in Manila and concluded that the most advantageous course of action would be to go big. We need size to better fight through those punishing screens from 6’7-6’8 wingmen. We need size to better box out those 6’11-7’1 power forwards and centers in the box.
Before Gilas left for Europe, I interviewed coach Tab Baldwin, and something he said back then stands out and resonates in a big way right now.
“We have to make a decision,” he said. “Are we going to be bigger and slower, or smaller and faster?”
“Which framework will help us be successful against these particular teams?”
I guess we know now. We’re rolling with six bigs, four wings, and two score-first point guards.
Average height? Around 1.96m or 6’5.
That’s not usually the case for Philippine national basketball teams. Gilas doesn’t usually parade teams this big. Yes, we had roughly the same average height last year, but it was 2 inches shorter in 2014 and 1 inch shorter in 2013. That doesn’t sound like much, but having to give up just an inch or two to opposing wingmen looks much better than having to give up four or five.
That’s just the reality of the situation. That’s just how it is.
The only time we can say that this move was right is after the dust settles. If we manage to surmount the odds and snare a win in the first round, all well and good. That’s pretty much exceeding expectations already. If we conjure a minor miracle by winning in the crossover semifinals, then wow. Amazing. And, heck, if the basketball gods really have a thing for us and we punch our way to #Rio2016, then we’ll have settled this little debacle, eh?
Until then, however, no answers can be found on our Twitter feeds or internet forums. The only way this can be proven right is if we win.
On the basketball court.
Against France, whose average height is around 6’6-6’7, and against New Zealand, whose average height is also 6’5. – By Enzo Flojo
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