Gilas Grades: Who passed the Iran test?

Gilas Pilipinas 4.0 gifted the noisy and lively crowd at the Araneta Coliseum and the millions of viewers on TV with a win over Iran, 81-70.

Gilas was ahead most of the time and they led by as much as 23 points but Iran came back to within 2 points 72-70. Instead of collapsing, Gilas stayed calm and collected as they played magnificent defense down the stretch to outscore Iran 9-0 in the final two minutes of their exhibition game.

Now, the 14-man roster has been finalized and Gilas will embark on a trip to Europe to prepare for the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament which will be in Manila on July.

Before they leave, here are some reactions and evaluations regarding their performances from last night’s friendly game vs Iran.

Calvin Abueva – C+

It’s rare to watch a game and not feel the presence of the Beast. Last night, Abueva wasn’t much of a factor during his 12:35 minutes of work. He finished with zero points while having more fouls (3) and turnovers (2). Additionally, his net rating (+/-) was -7 which suggests his negative impact. In any case, I think Abueva was simply too excited to play for Gilas and once he calms down, he should be okay.

Japeth Aguilar – A

Aguilar did not start the game but he played like one. In his over 15 minutes of action, Japeth was very aggressive offensively. He took and made a lot of midrange jumpers plus he wasn’t scared to bang with the big guys in the paint. Aguilar was perfect on the field – 5/5 FG, 2/2 FTs for 12 points. Gilas needs him to continue that torrid shooting pace and continue running down the court during the FIBA OQT.

Andray Blatche – A+

Blatche was the best player on the floor last night. He finished with a double-double, 20 points and 11 rebounds. He was the only player to do so. While his offensive numbers were impressive, he was more remarkable on the defensive end. He was often active defensively and his intensity showed during the final minutes with a block and a couple of steals.

Jayson Castro – B

Castro had a nondescript game with 3 points and 6 assists. He played a shade under 14 minutes because Coach Tab probably wanted to see his other guards play more. Castro is already a proven weapon for Gilas and everybody knows that including Coach Tab. There’s also a chance that the coaching staff wanted to lessen Castro’s exposure to other teams like limit chances to scout him this early.

Jeff Chan – Incomplete

Chan was unavailable to play last night because he was still recovering from a groin injury. However, that did not stop Coach Tab and the coaching staff from including him in the 14-man lineup that will travel and train in Europe over the next few weeks. Chan needs to recover fast because Gilas needs shooters!

Ranidel de Ocampo – B

RDO (together with Ping) is one of the elder statesman on the team. He knows what to do when called upon by the coach (or country). De Ocampo didn’t play much but he managed 4 points and 3 rebounds. He mixed his game up by staying on the perimeter when others were near the paint and RDO also operated in the low post when given an opening.

June Mar Fajardo – C+

The reigning back-to-back PBA MVP had a so-so game during his stint on the floor where he only had 3 points and 3 rebounds. Fajardo was unable to utilize his strengths in the low post, maybe due to Iran’s defense and/or the type of offense Gilas was running. Fajardo also tried a couple of midrange jumpers that he missed. He must continue to improve on those if he wants to get more playing time. We need him.

Marcio Lassiter – Incomplete

The best shooter in the PBA has been absent for most of the team’s practices and preparations. He has been battling illness and is reported to have lost a lot of weight. Since Lassiter is not completely healthy, it made sense that Coach Tab did not include him in the final lineup even if our team desperately needs shooters. Fortunately, Ryan Reyes appears ready to take his spot.

Gabe Norwood – B

His defense will always be spot on and that was evident last night as Norwood aggressively harassed Iran’s perimeter players. However, his offense was quite lacking. Gabe only took 2 shots and ended with zero points. Norwood needs to become more active offensively so that opponents will consider him a threat to score, thus opening the floor up for the others.

Rayray Parks, JR. – A

Parks definitely showed that his game vastly improved after playing in the NBA D-League. He moved quicker on defense and had active feet and hands. He also made smart decisions with the ball (5 assists) and took timely shots (4/6 FG for 11 points). A telling stat was his 20:46 minutes which was the 4th highest after Blatche, Norwood and Romeo. Certainly, Coach Tab has bigger things planned for Rayray.

Marc Pingris – B

Ping started the game and he was okay during his stint. Not a lot was asked from him, just defend, rebound, hustle and set screens. These were things that Pingris already does habitually. He was quietly effective and that is what the whole team should aspire to do. Stay humble, know your role and do your job. Folks, that is Marc Pingris.

Kiefer Ravena – Incomplete

Ravena was dressed and ready to play but Coach Tab decided against fielding him. The decision not to play Kief was disappointing but somewhat understandable due to a crowded back court. Things got murkier when Ryan Reyes played amazing. So, it was not surprising that Ravena was cut from the final lineup. On the bright side, Ravena should see a lot of action in the revived Gilas Cadets program.

Ryan Reyes – A+

The release of the 14-man lineup was somewhat delayed because Reyes made things complicated for the team in a very good way. Reyes played out of his mind vs Iran as he made 4 threes in 5 attempts to finish with 12 points. His performance was unexpected. Moreover, he was their best shooter last night and that is great news for Gilas because Jeff Chan is hurting and Lassiter won’t be in the final lineup.

Terrence Romeo – B+

Romeo received a lot of “oohhs and aahhs” from the fans every time he had the ball. He did not disappoint with his dribbling skills but his shot selection and lack of ball movement were frustrating. If Romeo improves his playmaking and passing plus places less emphasis on taking shots, then he can be the best player in the PBA. Gilas needs him to make smarter decisions with the ball.

Troy Rosario – C+

Rosario had an unremarkable game. He played less than 5 minutes to finish with zero points and 1 rebound. In fairness, it would be difficult to contribute a lot and be helpful with that amount of playing time. Still, Rosario will be an integral part of the team because his outside shooting and length will come in handy when the time comes.

Moala Tautuaa – Incomplete

Mo did not see action last night because his primary role is to serve as a backup for Andray Blatche if Blatche cannot play in a FIBA tournament. Thus, the coaching staff probably wanted to see how the others played together instead of giving Tautuaa minutes. Anyway, there’s already a logjam in terms of minutes at the forward spot, so someone had to sit.

LA Tenorio – B

Tenorio wasn’t having a great game until near the end of the 4th quarter. He was scoreless and had no assists at that point. Nonetheless, Coach Tab gave him the opportunity to finish the game and Tenorio responded. He only scored one basket and that came during a crucial stretch for Gilas who was only up by 2 points with about 2 minutes left. Tenorio is rarely rattled and occasionally clutch, both are important traits for a point guard. – By Rolly Mendoza

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