What chemistry (or mask) will Gilas try next?
The Gilas Philippine national basketball team continued to flash the PUSO braveheart tag, although it has donned several other masks in its international campaign.
The national squad decided to play tall and masqueraded as a towering team against Kazakhstan.
Gilas had the ceiling but clearly lacked balance, proper chemistry.
It got exposed and fell against Kazakhstan thereby causing widespread despair among countless fans away from the game site while those who came to the Mall of Asia Arena last week were also left to grieve.
For its game against Iran on Monday, Gilas made drastic changes in the tall lineup. It called in the tested internationalist Jayson Castro, a premier backcourt warrior, who presided over a sensational start for Gilas with his speed and sharpness.
There was a big thrill as Gilas blitzed it out with a display of respectable defense and cohesion to stay slightly ahead for most of the match.
Unfortunately, Gilas suffered an unexpected slip and squandered an eight-point lead in the homestretch, mainly on defensive lapses. It lost the lead and fell miserably to the depleted Iran team which came over without its two top international stars.
The losing game against Iran was projected as absolutely perilous: a defeat could reportedly cause Gilas to lose its remaining chance to qualify for the basketball World Cup in China next year.
As it would turn out, the Gilas national team still has a slim chance, depending on the results of two remaining assignments, against Qatar and Kazakhstan, in February.
Anyway, after the failure against Kazakhstan, which Gilas had beaten in a previous encounter, coach Yeng Guiao humbly owned up to the faults.
The PBA, other than release top players, had taken a break to allow the national team to work together with no distraction.
An excited Al Panlilio, head of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, assured that they had assembled the strongest pool in Philippine basketball.
Nobody bothered to contest the claim.
There would be no finger-pointing after the back-to-back defeats against Kazakhstan and Iran.
However, it would next surface that lack of team maturity was being singled out as the big culprit.
So where does that put coach Yeng Guiao, who inherited the chore as national team mentor from Chot Reyes, following the anomalous bench-emptying brawl in the game between the Philippines and visiting Australia at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan?
Good enough that coach Guiao savored a few great moments following the Gilas team’s sensational game against powerhouse China, which managed to escape with a slim two-point win.
China and Korea, which would also beat the Philippines, have both advanced and gained slots in the 2019 World Cup in China.
Nothing is clear on how the Gilas national squad would prepare for the remaining assignments against Qatar and Kazakhstan in February.
Another towering but shallow national squad is definitely out of the picture.
How do they dig for better chemistry, rush out a talented outfit with a solid core and character, in so short a period?
Late as it is, this is the time for the SBP to rethink and renew its shallow national basketball development program.
There must be a pertinent solution waiting to be discovered.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.