Grading the Gilas 5.0 24-man pool

The latest iteration of Gilas Pilipinas will be led by former UAAP stars Bobby Ray Parks and Kiefer Ravena, along with Fil-Canadian Matthew Wright, and a handful of promising PBA players. In total, Gilas 5.0 will have 24 players in its initial pool, which will eventually be trimmed to 12 for the new-look Gilas roster vying in the 2016 FIBA Asia Challenge in Tehran, Iran next month.

If you’re looking for old reliables like Jeff Chan, Japeth Aguilar, Jayson Castro, or Marc Pingris, then you’ll be sorely disappointed. The only pros in this pool are: Yutien Andrada, Mon Abundo, JP Erram, Matt Ganuelas, and Almond Vosotros. Not exactly top shelf, eh? It’s worth noting, however, that Ganuelas has FIBA Asia experience already, having played in the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship in Changsha-Hunan.

So let’s get straight to the point — how does this pool stack up? Will it have enough talent, size, and experience to contend for a podium finish in Tehran, or, at the very least, be a competitive outfit?

Let’s see.

Frontline: Yutien Andrada, Kemark Cariño, Carl Cruz, JP Erram, Russel Escoto, Ponso Gotladera, Chris Javier, Arvin Tolentino, Arnold Van Opstal.

– Size isn’t too much of an issue, given how Cariño, Erram, and AVO are all legit 6’8 or taller. Andrada and Escoto have great size (6’6) and length, too, while Tolentino is perhaps the most offensively gifted player in this set. I see Cruz and Javier as a little too undersized to be frontliners at the Asian level, so unless they develop wingman skills fast, they look to be easy cuts when the time comes. I’m a little disappointed that DLSU’s Jay Pangalangan and FEU’s Ken Holmqvist aren’t here, though, especially the latter, who was a member of the Cadets squad earlier this year. Still, I think this is a promising frontline, but what keeps it from being excellent is the fact that we don’t have a legit 7-footer to match up with the Hamed Haddadis and Tao Hanlins of the continent. If we had more time, we could have maybe naturalized one of the African imports in the college game, or, if availability weren’t an issue, maybe we could have gotten Troy Rosario as well. All in all, Gilas 5.0 will have good size and length up front, but even guys like Erram and AVO will probably get overwhelmed by the other bigger and more experienced centers (e.g. Amrit Pal Singh, Quincy Davis, Kim Jong-Kyu) of Asia.

Wingmen: Mac Belo, Kevin Ferrer, Matt Ganuelas, Jonathan Grey, Ray Parks, CJ Perez, Von Pessumal, RR Pogoy, Matthew Wright.

– I’m quite excited about this group. I feel that, though they’ll surely need time to gel and get more FIBA Asia experience, these guys have the potential to be very good international players in a couple of years. I think outside shooting is all but lost for Ganuelas, but guys like Belo, Ferrer, Parks, Perez, and Wright have great combinations of size, speed, and skill-set. Those five, I think, are shoo-ins for the final twelve provided they won’t get injured or, for some reason, suddenly become unavailable. Parks and Wright have the most intriguing upside, of course. Both can play positions 1 to 3, and both can dominate a game in different ways. Parks won’t score a ton, but he can be a super impact player on defense and in terms of getting his teammates involved. Wright is a dayum good shooter who can also attack the basket and make plays for his teammates. Finally, we’ll get to see him in a Gilas kit. Finally! This is still not an excellent group by any standard, but, given the constraints with which Gilas 5.0 had to work, it’s a very solid selection.

Playmakers: Ed Daquioag, Jio Jalalon, Kiefer Ravena, Mike Tolomia, Almond Vosotros, Mon Abundo.

– This, I think, is where things can get shaky for Gilas. I have to admit, I haven’t seen much of Abundo. Apart from him, perhaps the only true point guard here is Jalalon, who may not even be available because of the ongoing NCAA campaign. That leaves four guys who aren’t even natural playmakers. Daquioag, Ravena, Tolomia, and Vosotros are all two-guards who are too small to remain as two-guards at the Asian level. That’s why they’ve all been groomed to be makeshift point guards. I’m not too confident in their abilities to dominate once they face Yang Dong-Geun, Chen Shih-Nian, Naoto Tsuji, or Sajjad Mashayekhi.

When Gilas 5.0 is finalized and takes to the floor in Tehran, one thing is for sure — it’ll be a baptism of fire for these kids. They have the potential to finish among the top four — yes, even without a naturalized player and a single holdover from the 2016 OQT Gilas squad — but it’s also a very stark possibility that they crash out as early as the first round. That’s how tough competition in Asia has become, and that’s just the painful truth of this Gilas reboot. – By Enzo Flojo

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