Gilas off to Japan sans hotshot
A Gilas Pilipinas crew that will be without prolific point guard Terrence Romeo departs for Haneda, Japan, on Tuesday, seeking to open its Fiba World Cup Qualifiers Asia stint on a bright note against the host squad three days later.
Four-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo, naturalized Andray Blatche and two-time Asia’s best point guard Jayson Castro banner a 15-man team that flies out at 8:55 a.m.
Coach Chot Reyes has until Nov. 23, or a day before the clash with Team Nippon, to decide on who the final three cuts would be.
Gilas has had a long streak of success against Japan, which will be spearheaded by its naturalized player, 6-foot-5 guard Ira Brown, and the talented 6-foot-10 center Jojie Takeuchi.
The Filipinos will have the size that can match up with the Japanese, with Carl Bryan Cruz, Troy Rosario and Raymond Almazan to backstop Blatche and the 6-foot-10 Fajardo.
Gilas also has a lot of talent and agility in the small forward position with Japeth Aguilar, Calvin Abueva and Mac Belo.
Gunslinger Matthew Wright, RR Pogoy and Allein Maliksi are Reyes’ top outside guns even as the 5-foot-10 Romeo is still included in the list of players the coaching staff initially submitted to the Fiba.
With Romeo out because of an injury, Reyes will be taking Kevin Alas and Kiefer Ravena to be the back-up of Castro, though Alas and Ravena will be hard-pressed to come up with the more than 22 points a game, Romeo’s average in the last Fiba Asia Cup in Beirut in Lebanon.
“The coaches haven’t decided on it yet,” team manager Butch Antonio said in a text message when asked if Reyes and his deputies have more or less figured out on who the final cuts would be.
One of the shoo-ins would have to be the veteran Gabe Norwood, who could be the best defensive man on Reyes’ roster as far as handling Brown is concerned.
Gilas will play Japan on Friday before flying back home the following day to play Chinese Taipei and Quincy Davis III at Smart Araneta Coliseum on Nov. 27.