Gilas now in position to slam-dunk
Bright developments, topped by a report that emerging regional powerhouse Indonesia has dropped plans of fielding a naturalized player, boost the stock of the Gilas Pilipinas national basketball team as it prepares to defend the SEA Games basketball crown in December.
Reports from Jakarta said the Indonesian basketball federation has excluded prospective reinforcement Denzel Bowles, a former PBA import, from its national lineup. Bowles had been training in Jakarta since mid-September.
It’s no secret that the Indonesian plan to use a naturalized reinforcement has brought national coach Tim Cone up on his toes. Cone had earlier sworn the SEA Games title defense won’t be a slam dunk.
With naturalized Andray Blatche out ahead, Cone had also sounded out his need for an “import stopper.”
Cone appeared very pleased with a full lineup now. In its first formal practice at the Meralco gym on Thursday, big man June Mar Fajardo, often hobbled by injury, was a towering participant.
“We’re excited, we envisioned a lot, it’s just a matter of prioritizing what we can get done,” Cone said.
Earlier, Cone bared that they would first concentrate on building a strong team defense, and everything else would follow.
Cone could not conceal excitement with his team, mainly the proliferation of tested internationalists. He had made it a point to exclude young stars, noting the short time they would have to jell and click.
Cone would not say it, but he obviously favored veterans based on the very poor showing of the Gilas team in the China Basketball World Cup, where the Philippines finished at the bottom, with no single win to show in five games.
Looking back, the previous Gilas squad was left to rely on young talents in manning the sensitive backcourt, where the inexperienced first-time internationalists were overpowered and smothered by battle-scarred warriors, mainly in the games against Italy and Serbia.
It should be noted that veteran Jayson Castro, considered one of Asia’s leading guards, was not part of that national squad.
With Castro now in the core of Cone’s lineup, it would not be surprising if the Gilas title defense in the SEA Games turns into some sort of a slam dunk.
This may sound exaggerated but, with his talent and proven worth, the small but super sharp Castro could end up performing mightily as a foreign reinforcement for Gilas before a home crowd.
It may not be an outright slam dunk for Gilas Pilipinas, but Cone must also be reminded about the dangers of a cloying overkill.
Make it a successful crown defense that tastes mighty good.
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