After nine grueling days of competition, Gilas Pilipinas found themselves in the middle of the pack after placing fourth in the Jones Cup tournament in Taiwan. Composed mostly of younger cadets, some of which had little to no international competitive experience, the tournament became an excellent proving ground for new talent, but with the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup looming on the horizon, certain lineup tweaks are needed in order to arrive at an experienced, tournament-ready team.
Based on preliminary statistics, this current Gilas iteration has proven to be very top-heavy, evidenced by seven players contributing 83% of all total points scored in the tournament. Essentially, Gilas ran with a seven-man rotation for majority of the tournament with few players providing energy and defense. We take a look at the key contributors in the Jones Cup, as well as their outlooks for the upcoming SEA Games and FIBA Asia Cup, with the latter being the more prestigious outing.
Michael Myers: B+
13.3 PPG (2nd for Gilas, 11th overall)
12.3 RPG (1st for Gilas, 1st overall)
Big Mike gave an outstanding effort throughout the tournament, scoring consistently under the basket and collecting a tournament-high 12.3 rebounds per game. Myers coughed up a few lazy missed dunks and ill-timed turnovers, but overall he did what was ultimately expected of him: man the paint and rebound the hell out of the ball. His future with the team affects his score—with the uncertainty surrounding Blatche's participation in FIBA, one wonders if Myers will garner a second glance as the main import for Gilas in upcoming major tournaments.
11.8 PPG (3rd for Gilas)
7.4 RPG (2nd for Gilas)
Whereas Myers mostly scored on putbacks and assisted stabs under the rim, Standhardinger actually showed a decent nose for offense by unleashing several post moves, enough to merit a noteworthy 11.8 points per game while being the second-best rebounder for Gilas. Collectively, the two grabbed 50% of all total rebounds made by Gilas, which may be interpreted as a bad thing given our inability to field both (or any) of these players in FIBA tournaments. Standhardinger’s passion remains a talking point—his emotional outbursts on the sidelines with coach Chot Reyes can either be interpreted as an admirable showing of puso or an inability to follow authority and form chemistry with coaching staff and players alike. Outside of June Mar Fajardo, the center position remains fully open and up for grabs.
14 PPG (1st for Gilas, 9th overall)
43% 3PT FG% (1st for Gilas among players who played 5+ games)
The Gilas program suffered massive losses when gunners Jeff Chan, Larry Fonacier, and PBA stats leader Marcio Lassiter exited the team at different stages. Gilas officials should be extremely satisfied to have discovered a hidden gem in Wright, a Canadian deadeye who has already shown his talents during the 2017 SEABA Championships. As the leading scorer for Gilas, Wright consistently rose to the occasion and bore the scoring load during stretches of stagnant offense from the team. Wright’s experience with Asian tournaments was in full display, having shown no hesitation in shooting daggers across defenders at a smoldering 43% from beyond the arc. With elite guards Terrence Romeo and Jayson Castro creating a better spaced offense, Wright should continue to blossom and be a prime option for Gilas in no time.
Kiefer Ravena: A-
4.3 APG (1st for Gilas, 1st overall)
10.3 PPG (4th for Gilas)
Coming from short stints with the Texas Legends development pool and the FIBA 3X3 tournament, Ravena's return to the public eye has been met with huge amounts of hype and skepticism. In a surprising swerve, he now brought his talents to Taiwan as the primary point guard for Gilas, having shown much more vision and team orchestration in the tournament rather than the pure scoring skill he exhibited during his Ateneo years. The Jones Cup provided a very attractive glimpse of a more holistic player, having dished out a tournament-high 39 assists while being the fourth best scorer for Gilas. This is a godsend for Gilas, who already has a slew of undersized scorers in cadets Mike Tolomia, and RR Pogoy; as well as veteran Terrence Romeo, who remains the best scoring off-guard in the Gilas pool. Ravena's athleticism, physicality, dribble penetration, and basketball IQ are sorely needed by Gilas, which can help add flexibility and unpredictability to their offense.
Jio Jalalon: B+
8 PPG (6th for Gilas)
1.7 SPG (1st for Gilas, 2nd overall)
60% 2PT FG% (1st for Gilas among rotation players)
The Gilas program now has an embarrassment of riches at point guard, with Jalalon returning from the SEABA outing and instantly providing solid offensive support with eight points per game. Most impressive in Jalalon's repertoire, however, is his pesky defense, with the feisty guard harassing his way to second overall in steals for the entire tournament. Notable also is his surprising efficiency in the field: 60% in 2PT field goal percentage. Jalalon probably won't make the cut for the FIBA Asia Cup due to the lack of consistent three-point shooting, as well as stronger, taller, and more experienced mainstays Castro and Romeo waiting on the sidelines, but remains a solid option down the line.
RR Pogoy: B-
8.8 PPG (5th for Gilas)
Rounding out the Top 5 scorers for Gilas is Pogoy, who continues to impress fans by scoring 8.8 points per game via spot-ups and dribble penetrations. Building on his newfound success in the PBA, Pogoy creates offense through skill and shooting, which could make him a solid sixth man and perhaps one of the most flexible players on the roster—if he finds minutes. With a glut of taller, more efficient shooters in the fold, it might take time for him to cement himself as a consistent and viable option.
Carl Bryan Cruz: B
7.2 PPG (7th for Gilas)
40% 3PT FG% (2nd for Gilas among players who played 5+ games)
It's worth noting that the biggest disappointment in this campaign has to be the inability of our small forwards to contribute consistently on the offensive end. Big expectations were placed on former college standouts Mac Belo and Kevin Ferrer, as well as homecoming darlings Kobe Paras and Ray Parks, but none of them gave any notable statistical contribution other than the occasional defensive play and spurts. No doubt these forwards will need more experience playing in smaller pocket tournaments, and are in no way FIBA-ready at this time.
With that out of the way: how the heck did Carl Bryan Cruz shoot 40% from beyond the arc? Cruz continues to surprise by effectively evolving from a physical banger from his FEU college years to a high-efficiency wing. His rebounding has eluded him in this tournament, which is concerning for a forward, but if he continues to shoot at this level, it would be enticing for the 6'4" shooter to join Gilas veterans Troy Rosario, Gabe Norwood, and Matthew Wright as a solid perimeter option.