Despite not having the three-headed veteran monster of Hamed Haddadi, Samad Nikkhah Bahrami and Mahdui Kamrani, the Iranians still put up a hell of a good fight against the national team during a tune-up game on Wednesday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Iran clawed their way back from being down by as much as 23 points employing the zone defense, something Gilas has yet to decipher, before coach Tab Baldwin and co. sealed the deal in the fourth quarter. The final score: 81-70.
The morning after, the names of the 14 men who will be part of the forthcoming European training camp—and are still in the running for the FIBA OQT Final 12—were revealed.
Before Coach Tab decides on who gets to don the country's colors in the huge tournament, here are a few takeaways, which could be factors in his decision-making, from the friendly game:
The future is bright for the guard position
Besides their sick handles, Terrence Romeo and Bobby Ray Parks showed a lot of promise in manning the backcourt. Romeo (12 points) got his usual oohs and ahhs from the crowd whenever he put his defender on skates, while Parks (11 pts, five assists) validated his stint in the NBA D-League. Potential Gilas guards Jayson Castro and Jeff Chan can now afford a breather.
Dray looked good out there
Apparently, sports pundit Quinito Henson wasn't kidding when he posted a photo of Andray Blatche's training. The NBA vet showed up trimmer than last year and took advantage of Haddadi's absence, leading Gilas with 20 points, 11 rebounds and four steals. A Blatche-June Mar Fajardo pairing never looked this deadly.
It's Japeth's time
Seeing Aguilar drain those mid-range J's couldn't get any sweeter. His length (6'9"), youth (only 29), and experience (six national team inclusions) will be valuable in a wingmen rotation that will most likely include Calvin Abueva, Marc Pingris, and/or Troy Rosario.
Plenty left in the tank
God knows how many times guys like Ranidel de Ocampo, Gabe Norwood and Pingris have been part of Gilas. They may not see a lot of minutes like they used to, but expect them to pour their hearts out regardless how limited the burn. Speaking of veterans...
Jimmy Alapag will not be missed
With the Mighty Mouse ostensibly taking assistant coaching duties, he has passed the torch to the team's elder statesmen.
Fortunately, LA Tenorio seemed to have gotten enough rest and Ryan Reyes looked like he's back for good. The 32-year-old Reyes outshone his younger teammates against Iran, shooting a blistering 4-of-5 from beyond the arc for 12 points. Meanwhile, Tenorio's lone basket came when it mattered the most; his floater at the 2:47 mark of the fourth quarter halted a furious 15-0 run that pulled the opposing team within two.
Photography KC Cruz