The new-look Gilas squad placed second overall, behind Iran, in the recently-concluded 37th William Jones Cup. Although we didn’t bag the gold, our basketball-crazy nation has more than enough reasons to smile. In eight games, our boys gave us good quality, entertaining basketball. From seeing Romeo’s nasty handles, to Tautuaa’s vicious slams all the way to the squad’s gutsy wins over the rowdy Russians and a determined New Zealand squad, it’s crystal-clear that Team Philippines has significantly improved since their winless stint in Estonia.
The Jones Cup, however, is ultimately a tune-up tournament. Its main purpose is to prepare our boys for the higher profiled tourneys ahead such as the FIBA Asia Championship. Developing team chemistry and the scouting of prospective opponents were the two main tasks of Coach Baldwin and his charges during their stint in the Taiwan-based tournament. Winning the silver medal was just a bonus.
On that note, we listed down the top ten lessons we learned from the 2015 Jones Cup that Gilas should employ as they bid for a slot in the Rio Olympics.
1) ROMEO IS INSANELY GOOD!
Many doubted how iso-play specialist Terrence Romeo would fit in the more team-oriented setting of international basketball. But as soon as the first game of Gilas in the Jones cup (versus Chinese-Taipei A) took place, the former King Tamarraw’s critics went silent. As it turned out, GlobalPort’s top gunner, along with Jayson Castro, are currently Gilas’ most dynamic scorers.
Video via Sports Watch
With his dazzling crossovers and his impossible-shot making ability, notwithstanding the Naruto-inspired hairdo, Romeo was able to make Jordan Clarkson react to one of his plays like a fanboy and earn the love and respect of the international fans. In fact, he was so impressive in the tournament, a love team made up of cute Taiwanese reporter Jenny Yu and Romeo called #RomYu was born. In all seriousness, though, Terrence Romeo should be a lock in the Gilas 3.0’s final 12.
2) ABUEVA, STILL A BEAST IN THE INTERNATIONAL STAGE
We’ve got nothing but love for Calvin Abueva. Nobody in the whole Jones Cup tourney had more hustle than The Beast, thus proving that there’s no way he shouldn't be included in Gilas’ final lineup. He was awesome on both ends of the floor, making huge impact, both on offense and defense whenever he steps on the hardwood.
Video via StreeTBallerZ 2K
Calvin’s best outing was his 20-point, 8-rebound outing as he led the Team Philippines to a victory over the supposedly more athletic USA-Select Overtake, starred by former PBA import, Marquin Chandler. Abueva runs on a different speed level than everybody else. He’s just 6'2" but his unbelievable motor makes him an undeniable force to be reckoned with.
3) HADDADI IS STILL A BIG PROBLEM
Image via Spin.ph
Upon facing Iran, Gilas 3.0 still found it hard to contend with the towering Hamed Haddadi and his tremendous passing from a bird’s eye view. Team Iran’s cutters had a field day laying the ball up unmolested as Haddadi fed them with sweet dishes from the post. And when the 7'2" three-time Asian Games MVP gets close to the basket, the noble efforts of our bigs, primarily Asi Taulava, get nullified as Hamed consistently put the ball through the basket as easily as you can imagine.
The two things Gilas can do to diminish Haddadi’s effectiveness, in case they meet again in the near future:
- Force Iran’s monolithic center to his left, which is his less favorable side
- Don’t get overwhelmed by Haddadi’s daunting presence, pay attention to Iran’s other gunners
4) TAUTUAA ISN'T BAD AT ALL
Andray Blatche’s understudy, Moala Tautuaa, shined in his first Jones Cup tournament. The 6'7" center from Tonga displayed surprising quickness, a respectable perimeter game, a team-first attitude, and a much-required toughness inside as he competed against larger opposition.
Video via Sports5
With a thick body and a burly appearance, Big Mo is deceptively fast, enabling him to score on unsuspecting defenders, resulting in highlight slams and silky-smooth jumpers, evident in the games versus Chinese Taipei-A, Japan, and USA. If Dray can’t shed the pounds, we won’t frown upon Tautuaa taking his place as Gilas’ naturalized player.
5) THE KOREANS ARE STILL KILLERS FROM DEEP
It looks like we’re still going to have hard time dealing with South Korea in our future encounters. Apparently the hot-shooting Koreans never lost an ounce of confidence after losing to Gilas in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship. Our long-time rivals have even gained more motivation as they dealt us another heart break.
Video via GMA News and Public Affairs
As South Korea and the Philippines met anew in Taiwan, the top snipers of Asia once again burned their long-time rivals with highly accurate outside shots, making each one as if if they missed, they’d be sent over to North Korea. The way the Koreans are shooting the basketball, the only way we can successfully defend the basket is to go man-to-man and stick to them like a fly latching on a dog’s poop.
6) THE GILAS 3.0 BOYS ARE TOUGH AS NAILS
In deciding to gut out a hard-fought victory instead of trading punches with the rowdy Russian squad, Gilas 3.0 was able to show that its players got a lot of poise. When Spartak center Alimdzhan Fediushin cracked Sonny Thoss’s head open with an elbow and flicked the ball onto the face of Terrence Romeo, a fuming Asi Taulava confronted the instigator but ultimately calmed down to refocus on winning the game.
Video via Sports5
Not backing down from the Russian crew’s excessive physicality, a combination of Gilas vets and young hotshots retaliated by playing excellent team ball to grind out a definitive 85-71 victory. Ranidel spearheaded Team Philippines’ valiant effort with 13 points, while Romeo and Abueva chipped in with 11 and 10 markers, respectively. Upon thriving amid the testy situation, the players in the Gilas 3.0 pool proved that they are worthy of donning our flag’s colors.
7) ASI AND DONDON REBORN
Even though Hamed Haddadi was dominant in Iran’s win over the Philippines, Asi Taulava gave the Iranian pivot all he could handle as Haddadi was seen in the bench at the closing moments of the game totally exhausted. And just when we thought the 42-year old Taulava’s 12 points and 8 rebounds would be his last good showing in the tourney, he followed it up with another stellar display against New Zealand the day after.
Image via Spin.ph
Down by as much as 16 points, Asi’s 12 points and 6 boards served as a springboard for Gilas’ comeback win over the Kiwis. But the biggest star of that game was the 38-year old Dondon Hontiveros. Unfortunately for Coach Tab Baldwin’s compatriots, the Cebuano Hotshot found his rhythm that has been missing all tournament long, allowing him to score 21 big points, 11 of which came in the extra period. The superb performances from Gilas’ ageless wonders validate their place in the national pool. Haters, you can lower those raised-eyebrows now.
8) WE NEED JUNE MAR