A new-look Gilas Pilipinas squad, with fascinating additions led by Kiefer Ravena and Kobe Paras, will take part in the 39th William Jones Cup from July 15 to 23. The Taiwan-based competition, which the Philippines' Mighty Sports conquered last year, will once again gauge our national team's strength and readiness for the upcoming FIBA Asia Cup next month. To know whether we should expect total dominance, just a decent performance, or nothing at all from our contingent, let’s take a look at the other teams eyeing to make headway in this “tune-up” tournament.
Team Canada 150
Top North American basketball program 3D Global Sports Canada is responsible for assembling Canada 150. The team has a daunting average height of 6’5” and most of them are already veterans of various professional leagues in the Americas and in Europe. One fellow that could give Gilas a migraine is former NBA prospect and reigning NBL Canada MVP, Royce White. We’ve heard he’s been posting Westbrook-like numbers over in the Canadian league. And with Gilas inclined to play small, Canada 150’s Michale Kyser (6’10) and Dallin Bachynski (7’0”) might also turn out to be serious problems for Coach Chot’s wards.
Chinese Taipei A and Chinese Taipei B
The host country is fielding in two teams for the tournament. The stalwarts of Chinese Taipei basketball are expected to be in the stronger Team A. Meanwhile, Team B will likely be a developmental squad, consisting of project players. Although still favored to lord over both teams, Gilas cannot afford to look past either of the two. Homecourt advantage is a big factor and Gilas definitely don’t want their mojo sapped due to a loss against an inferior opponent.
If Team India goes to the Jones Cup in full force, they could be an annoying crew for anyone they’d come across. This squad has good size and bothersome length courtesy of Amritpal Singh (7’0”) and the highly skilled Amjyot Singh (6’9”). They aren’t also short of heady and energetic players at the guard and small forward positions with the likes of Yadwinder Singh and Vishesh Bhriguvanshi running up and down the floor. However, we believe Team India is still, at least, a level below the Gilas program. In three quarters, the Gilas boys should have these Indian ballers all figured out.
Names that used to strike fear into the hearts of Gilas supporters—Samad Bahrami, Medhi Kamrani, and Hamed Haddadi—aren’t present in Team Iran’s current lineup. That should be good news, right? Well, yes, but not totally. The squad remains to be a formidable one with veterans like Oshin Sahakian and Mohammed Jamshidi still ready to lead the charge. Iran is known for its athleticism and toughness so you can bet the new crop of talent are likely cast from the same mold. Gilas’ performance against this team will be a good indication of how Coach Chot needs to navigate his troops in order for all of them to move forward.
Every Japanese basketball team sent for international competition had good shooters and players who loved to run. That’s why it’s always good to be cautious when facing Team Japan. Veteran Japanese gunners Atsuya Ota and Ryoma Hashimoto are the guys to home in on should they suit up. But Gilas should also be ready if ever Japan enlists one or even two naturalized players from the US in its final roster. Gilas has the upper hand against an all-local Japanese lineup, but with reinforcements, PH vs JPN would surely be a dogfight.
This team has been making significant progress in the Asian basketball scene. They’ve already qualified for the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup for the first time in 30 years and they look more determined than ever to break through to the next level. The reality is, they still have a long way to go before they can catch up to the basketball powers of Asia. Iraq is still currently ranked 94th in the FIBA World Rankings and we don’t see them cracking the Top 50 anytime soon. Don’t count on Team Iraq to make much noise in the Jones Cup unless they get involved in a bench-clearing brawl.
Ever since Gilas Pilipinas’ historic win over South Korea in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship, we’ve been convinced that the Korean curse, which had broken Team Philippines’ heart so many times, no longer has power over us. By now, we’re banking on Gilas to execute an airtight strategy that will derail the Koreans’ dreaded long-range game and ultra-crisp passing. One thing’s for sure; no one should be caught sleeping on D while playing this team full of marksmen. Lack of focus and unwillingness to pay attention to detail on defense will surely result in a Gilas downfall. Slowing down, or better yet shutting down, Korean snipers Heo-Hoo (G), Heo II-Young (G/F) should be a our team's primary objective.
Atletas All-Stars Lithuania
The Lithuanian crew is composed of tall and fundamentally sound players, who play disciplined defense to make up for their lack of athleticism. On the other hand, the way to offset these advantages is to force the Atletas All-Stars out of their comfort zone. Perhaps, a fast, rugged, and somewhat freewheeling playing style will do the trick. To successfully employ such tactic, Coach Chot may want to ask his charges to draw inspiration from what Jimmy Alapag and his teammates did at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup, where Gilas kept pace with elite squads by playing that exact same brand of basketball.