OPINION: A taller PH 12 needed versus Iran

12 spots, 14 prospects.

Against a tall Iranian frontline, 12 players from a talent-laden pool shall once again carry the Philippine flag in the resumption of the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup Asian Qualifiers.

14 out of 16 hopefuls will battle for roster spots in this latest edition of the men’s national team, now under the tutelage of coach Yeng Guiao. With a loaded PBA selection in his disposal, another tour of duty in the international stage beckons for the multi-titled bench tactician after an inspiring campaign in the 2018 Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games.

On September 13, the Philippine quintet faces Hamed Haddadi and Iran in Group F action of the World Cup qualification phase. With practices at the Meralco Gym in full swing since September 3, the Philippine national team has less than two weeks of preparation left before another showdown with the three-time FIBA Asia Cup champions at the Azady Gym in Tehran.

Through three qualifying windows, the Philippine five carries a 4-2 win-loss card, with those two defeats coming from Australia. After losing their first qualifying match against Iraq, the Mehran Shahintab-mentored Iranian squad strung five straight wins for a 5-1 slate.

But prior to the intriguing match against Iran, Guiao has the unenviable task of selecting the 12 men that will comprise the Philippine side.

Who will get the call-up, and who will be cut? We at FOX Sports Philippines lay down our picks for the Philippines’ “Final 12” against Iran.

Out due to suspension

As a result of the infamous Philippines-Australia “basket-brawl”, Gilas Pilipinas stalwarts Japeth Aguilar and Matthew Wright are set to miss the Iran match due to a one-game suspension levied by FIBA. The same sanction applies to Gilas Pilipinas head coach Chot Reyes following the July 2 fracas that took place at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue. Despite the suspension, both Aguilar and Wright have been participating in the practices along with the other national team aspirants.

With Aguilar and Wright ineligible for the September 13 game, Guiao has 14 players left to choose from for his “Final 12”.

Our picks

At the point guard spot, we select Paul Lee and Alex Cabagnot. Both playmakers have shown their knack for hitting their perimeter shots consistently, even on the fly. Against the lanky perimeter defenders of Iran, the outside shooting skills of both Lee and Cabagnot could be of great use. More importantly, these two point guards are known to be cold-blooded mercenaries especially in the clutch.

At shooting guard, Guiao may opt to call in Marcio Lassiter and Scottie Thompson. An original member of the Gilas 1.0 squad, Lassiter possesses one of the best shooting strokes in the professional ranks today. In the international game, a three-pointer is a valuable weapon and Lassiter has bushels of that in store. Known for his athleticism and hustle, Thompson is a proven contributor on both ends of the floor. The Ginebra fan-favorite can fill up the stat sheet with points, assists, steals and rebounds, even against taller opponents.

At the small forward position, we pick Allein Maliksi and national team veteran Gabe Norwood. Just like Lassiter, Maliksi can spread the defense with his outside sniping. Norwood, time and again, provides the intangibles and the leadership on and off the floor from his tenure with the national squad.

At power forward, the tandem of Ian Sangalang and Christian Standhardinger may just fit the bill. These two talented forwards own a wide range of offensive moves in the post, aside from their tenacity on rebounds plays. With their size, Sangalang and Standhardinger can match up against the hefty forwards of Iran that backstop Haddadi.

Finally at center, Greg Slaughter, JP Erram, Asi Taulava and Raymond Almazan might get the call for the frontcourt spots. Aside from Haddadi, Iran also has 7-footer Rouzbeh Arghavan in their line-up. With the four big men manning the paint, the Philippines would have enough ceiling to defend the fort against Iran’s giants.

Our tough cuts

Beau Belga, in our opinion, would have to sit this one out in lieu of a taller Philippine frontline. Belga surely offers physicality and court smarts but premium in this latest iteration of the national team should be on height against the bigger, heftier Iranians.

Stanley Pringle should have been a shoo-in in this lineup after an impressive stint in the 18th Asian Games, if not for a wrinkle in the FIBA eligibility rulebook. National squads are only allowed to tap one naturalized player in their 12-man lineup. The status of being a “naturalized player” applies to players who have acquired their passport beyond the age of 16, regardless of their lineage. Classified as a “naturalized player” along with Standhardinger, Pringle may lose his spot to the Fil-German bruiser.

Lee, Cabagnot, Lassiter, Thompson, Maliksi, Norwood, Sangalang, Standhardinger, Slaughter, Erram, Taulava and Almazan form our “Final 12” versus Iran.

Who’s on your list? Hit us up in the comments section with your picks.

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