Thanks to a change of heart from the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) and player loans from other PBA teams, a Rain or Shine-led core will troop to Indonesia to compete in the men’s basketball tournament of the 2018 Asian Games.
SBP is pretty realistic when asked about their hopes in the tournament, and rightfully so: while this lineup looks stacked on paper, this isn’t even half the talent of what the country could field in any tiff.
But this doesn’t mean that the Philippines won’t fare well against its powerhouse neighbors. Nothing is set in stone. After all, a Philippine team that made the 2014 FIBA World Cup finished a dismal seventh in the last edition of the Asian Games; we can’t possibly predict anything valid at this point.
What we can predict, though, is the lineup that SBP will send come August 18. The country’s basketball body, in collaboration with the PBA, formed a 14-man pool of the best available players, and two will be cut at coach Yeng Guiao’s discretion.
We looked at the numbers and made our 12-man guess.
• Stanley Pringle, Christian Standhardinger, Paul Lee and JP Erram
They can’t possibly cut any of these guys from the final roster since they specifically requested for them.
We’ll possibly see a Pringle-Lee starting backcourt, with the two alternating on both guard spots. Pringle is coming off an impressive Commissioner’s Cup campaign where he averaged 21.0 points, 5.7 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 1.7 steals in 11 elimination games on 44-32-83 shooting splits. Lee, on the other hand, was hot from downtown (44 percent on seven tries per game) and averaged 15.9 points and 3.7 assists in 27 minutes per game.
San Miguel’s Standhardinger will definitely provide the much-needed size down low along with Blackwater’s JP Erram, who slowed down after a hot start in the Philippine Cup.
• Gabe Norwood
No Philippine team is complete without the longest-tenured national player. He’ll be bringing the length and veteran experience needed to match up with more seasoned opponents. Watch him kill it again on the international stage.
• Raymond Almazan
This squad’s frontcourt is pretty thin, so expect Almazan to make the final lineup. He’s impressed alongside Reggie Johnson in the Commissioner’s Cup and averaged 15.5 points, 7.9 rebounds and a block in just 23 minutes per game.
LIKELY TO MAKE IT
• Chris Tiu
Barring any injuries or surprises, we’re going to be looking at Tiu donning the tri-colors for the first time since his Gilas 1.0 days. No stranger to the international game himself, the former Blue Eagle’s game has matured a lot and his playmaking and shooting have opened up the floor for his teammates in the last two conferences. These factors make him an excellent option at the backcourt.
• Maverick Ahanmisi
Ahanmisi should complete the four-guard rotation for Guiao’s squad. He could be slotted in both the one and two positions and is consistent on offense, norming averages of 10.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.9 steals in 11 elimination contests. He shot 44 percent from the field and 43 percent on threes, too.
• Ricci Rivero and Kobe Paras
The two are good candidates to fill the depth problems at the wing. Both are pretty fresh; they’ve seen action with the Gilas cadets in the 2018 Filoil Flying V Preseason Tournament and are have trained with the UP Fighting Maroons as of late. One of them is in danger of getting booted out by either James Yap or Don Trollano if Guiao opts in favor of experience and shooting, but Rivero and Paras could make the cut since they’re fast and athletic enough to keep up with their opponents on defense.
• Asi Taulava and Beau Belga
Seeing that there’s probably a spot left in the frontcourt for a big man, there seems to be two scenarios for these two: either one of them will get cut in favor of a shooter (James Yap or Don Trollano), or both of them will make it due to their familiarity with coach Yeng Guiao.
Belga saw his minutes dip (19 per game) in what could be considered a down conference for him; he averaged only 6.9 points and 5.1 rebounds and only shot 29 percent from the field. The 45-year old Taulava, on the other hand, played sparingly (seven minutes in seven elimination games).
LIKELY TO GET CUT
• James Yap and Don Trollano
Both are capable of usurping any guy in the 50-50 list, but their only hope is that Guiao picks their talents, shooting and experience.
The problem is they haven’t been stellar and/or consistent on both ends of the floor. Aside from a couple of throwback games at the tail end of the Elasto Painters’ campaign, Yap looked his age for most of the conference (7.8 points in 17 minutes per game) and shot just 37 percent from the field. Trollano, on the other hand, put up similar numbers in similar numbers (7.09 points in 17 minutes on 40 percent shooting from the field).
Between the two, however, ‘Big Game James’ has a better chance of making the lineup. He could be an excellent off-ball threat — he shot 39 percent on threes in 11 elimination games.