But if a report by The Philippine Star's Nelson Beltran is to be believed, Gilas coach Chot Reyes already has nine in mind, leaving the vibrant, opinionated basketball loving Pinoy fans to bring out their crystal balls and make their predictions for the final three spots.
As Beltran pointed out, the nine men seeded to make the national team cut are naturalized center Andray Blatche, June Mar Fajardo, Calvin Abueva, Jayson Castro, Japeth Aguilar, Terrence Romeo, Troy Rosario, Raymond Almazan, and Allein Maliksi.
Expectedly, Reyes was up in arms over the premature naming of the roster, clarifying on his Twitter account how he mentioned no names and had only 8 or 9 players in mind with nothing final yet before he unveils the lineup on Friday. (Hopefully, he’s learned his lesson not to make a TV spectacle out of it like the much-maligned move they did the last time.)
Still, given that nothing’s final yet, the released lineup passes the eye test. Save for Almazan, Rosario and Maliksi, Reyes has gone to battle with the six others mentioned and it’s hard to picture him not going with his trusted men.
There’s also the possibility that he treats the SEABA as the stage to develop the younger cagers before bringing out the big guns in tougher tournaments later this year. But it’s doubtful he’ll take chances in his first tournament back and right in front of the home crowd.
Then again, he’s the coach. He can put whoever he wants in the Gilas lineup, and we’d all still cheer. For now, though, what we can offer is an educated guess on who makes the final three based on that initial nine.
Here are the remaining choices: LA Revilla, Bradwyn Guinto, Jio Jalalon, Matthew Wright, Ed Daquioag, RR Pogoy, Kevin Ferrer, Fonso Gotladera, Arnold Van Opstal, Jonathan Grey, Norbert Torres, Mike Tolomia, Von Pessumal, Carl Bryan Cruz, and Almond Vosotros.
Gilas hopefuls Mac Belo, Art Dela Cruz, and Russell Escoto are out of the race due to injuries.
(Yes, we understand if you’re not blown away with these names. But they’re mostly rookies, so give them a break.)
Given the first nine, here’s a ranking of the most likely to make the final Gilas 12:
BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME
The dude’s not even part of an active PBA roster, as the former La Salle guard acts as practice player for TNT KaTropa.
Arnold Van Opstal
These PBA bench warmers likely spent the most playing time of their young careers as part of the Gilas teams battling the PBA All-Star selections from Mindanao and Luzon. And with the frontcourt likely set, there may be no room for these two as they can’t even crack the rotation of their own respective PBA teams.
Carl Bryan Cruz
These three big men have found roles in their PBA clubs but again, by process of elimination with the first nine having five steady frontcourt players, it’s hard to see them bumping any of the more established veterans.
There’s a case for Revilla with Reyes normally going with a three point guard rotation (look back to the Gilas trio of Jimmy Alapag, LA Tenorio, Jayson Castro). Still, his height is the biggest detriment with bigger point guards still among the choices. Grey, meanwhile, has height, length and shooting that could prove useful. But what he brings to the table on offense, he easily takes away with his defense (or lack of it).
DARK HORSE CONTENDERS
Each of these three players bring a distinct advantage over the rest of the field. Tolomia, a candidate for the third point guard role, has his familiarity with Gilas’ dribble-drive offense. The former Ateneo standout Pessumal’s range is an asset in a pool deprived of shooters. Daquioag, on the other hand, has impressed the Gilas coaching staff well with his strength, slashing, energy and work ethic—intangibles Reyes seeks in his players. However, the problem they all share is consistency especially with their outside shooting.
Four players remain, three slots to go. And these Gilas cadets all have strong cases to join the Final 12. Wright’s the easiest to justify, especially as he’s a proven scorer and a deadly shooter (1.8 threes per game) with solid defense, athleticism and length. And for the cherry on top, he was named co-All-Star MVP when Gilas was held to a draw by the Mindanao selection on Wednesday.
Jalalon has the strongest case among all point guard picks to join Castro and Romeo. He’s proven himself in the PBA as a great two-way player with three-point range and swagger to guard the opposing team’s best guard.
Pogoy arguably has the better stats than Ferrer, but what works to the former UST star’s advantage is his height, length and tenacity while also showing in his first PBA playoffs stint that he level up his performance when given more playing time. Pogoy, though, is the better shooter and defender but what makes his case difficult is the plausibility of TNT lending three key players while in the thick of the Commissioner’s Cup race.
FINAL THREE PICKS
Wright, Jalalon, Pogoy