Gilas 4.0 pool has right mix of talent

The 2016 Gilas Pilipinas national pool will represent the country in three competitions this year: the 2016 SEABA Cup in Thailand, the 2016 FIBA OQT in Manila, and, should they finish among the top two in the SEABA Cup, the 2016 FIBA Asia Challenge in Iran.

Judging by the recently-released 24-man roster for the national pool, Gilas 4.0 sure looks to be formidable, given how coach Tab Baldwin has assembled a good mix of talent.

The “essentials” (as I would like to call them) are here, and, specifically, these are naturalized player Andray Blatche, reigning PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo, and two-time FIBA Asia All-Star Five member Jayson Castro. Outside of the extremely remote possibility of a Jordan Clarkson apparition, Blatche, Fajardo, and Castro should form Gilas’s version of most successful teams’ Big Three combos. If there are players who are shoo-ins for Gilas, these three are sure to be among them, barring major injuries and other unforeseen circumstances, of course.

The pool also has a lot of experience, what with the return of veterans from the 2013-2014 pools (e.g. Japeth Aguilar, Jeff Chan, Paul Lee, Gabe Norwood, Ranidel de Ocampo, Marc Pingris, LA Tenorio, and Ryan Reyes) and the 2015 iteration (e.g. Calvin Abueva, Matt Rosser, Terrence Romeo, and Mo Tautuaa). I suspect that most of the supporting players surrounding the aforementioned Big Three will come from this set.

Continuity also gets a boost as Gilas Cadets players Mac Belo, Russell Escoto, Kevin Ferrer, Ray Parks, RR Pogoy, Troy Rosario, and Kiefer Ravena have been elevated. These players should form the team’s core for the SEABA Cup later this month, and I actually wouldn’t be shocked if a few of them make the final cut for the OQT (IMHO, Parks, Ravena, and Rosario have the best chances). And when 2017 eventually swings around, expect most if not all of these young guns to play even bigger roles for Gilas.

The names that have gotten me most excited, though, are Marcio Lassiter and Greg Slaughter. As we all should know, both Lassiter and Slaughter were part of the very first Gilas pool helmed by Serbian coach Rajko Toroman. They both played in the 2010 Asian Games, and Lassiter reprised his role in the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship in Wuhan. Both were named in coach Chot Reyes’s 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup pool, but both withdrew for seemingly unclear reasons. I’m excited because Lassiter has been, arguably, the best shooting guard in the PBA for at least the last 12 months, and Slaughter can give the team size and form a potentially strong frontline triumvirate with Blatche and Fajardo. To be quite frank, both Marcio and Greg are looking good in terms of making the final twelve, and I would be quite shocked if either or both won’t make it.

All in all, coach Tab has assembled what, at least for me, looks to be the deepest, biggest, and most balanced pool in the history of the national basketball program. I sincerely believe this pool possesses the very best of Philippine hoops at this point in time, and I cannot wait to see just how they will fare against some of the best in the region and in the world.

#LabanPilipinas #Puso – By Enzo Flojo

Follow this writer on Twitter: @hoopnut

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