Meet Gilas Pilipinas’ Final 12 for Fiba World Cup
MANILA, Philippines — The new-look Gilas Pilipinas, composed of NBA star Jordan Clarkson and a mix of veterans and the current top players in the country, will have a chance to defend the country’s home court and chase an Olympic dream in the Fiba World Cup 2023.
These 12 men and their coaches will represent the country in its historic hosting of the biggest basketball spectacle for the first time in 45 years as the Filipinos try to defy the odds in Group A against the Karl-Anthony Towns-led Dominican Republic, Angola, and powerhouse Italy.
Gilas Pilipinas is not only seeking to reach the next round–which it hasn’t done in the last two World Cup appearances–but also is setting its sights on becoming the best Asian team to book an outright ticket to the 2024 Paris Olympics.
The Philippines trimmed down its 16-man pool to the Final 12 on Wednesday with Ray Parks Jr., one of the steadiest scorers of Gilas in the past tournaments, Thirdy Ravena, Chris Newsome, and Calvin Oftana not making the cut.
Pool members Carl Tamayo, Jordan Heading, and Poy Erram already begged off due to their respective injuries, while naturalized players Justin Brownlee and Ange Kouame have accepted that Clarkson will represent the nationals after their commitment and huge contributions to the program.
Get to know the Final 12 players and the coaches of Gilas Pilipinas for the World Cup.
Jordan Clarkson is back for another tour of duty for Gilas Pilipinas in his biggest campaign yet.
The Utah Jazz star will serve as the country’s naturalized player in his third appearance for the national team after the 2018 Asian Games and in last year’s Asian Qualifier window in August against Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.
Clarkson hopes to pick up where he left off after averaging 25.0 points, 6.5 assists, and 5.5 rebounds in his last two games for Gilas.
Clarkson is the most decorated naturalized player of Gilas. He was the 2021 NBA Sixth Man of the Year and became part of the 2015 All-Rookie first team when he was still with the Los Angeles Lakers. He also played in the 2018 NBA Finals with the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers.
The 31-year-old guard won’t be the only NBA player in Group A with the likes of Minnesota Timberwolves standout Karl-Anthony Towns of the Dominican Republic and Atlanta Hawks big man Bruno Fernando of Angola also boosting their respective nations.
Clarkson’s Jazz teammate Simone Fontecchio will also lead Italy, which battles Gilas on August 27 at Araneta Coliseum.
June Mar Fajardo
June Mar Fajardo is making his third appearance in the World Cup as he continues to be one of Gilas Pilipinas’ cornerstones.
Fajardo was part of the Gilas program in 2013 when the Philippines booked a return trip to the World Cup after a 36-year wait. He helped Gilas notch its first win over Senegal in the 2014 World Cup in Seville, Spain.
Fajardo also played for the national team in its winless campaign in 2019 in China.
Apart from being a World Cup veteran, the 6-foot-10 center also represented Gilas in the Southeast Asian Games twice, winning the gold in 2019 in Manila and settling for silver in Vietnam last year. An injury prevented him from suiting up for a third straight SEA Games stint.
The 33-year-old national team campaigner has won six PBA Most Valuable Players and nine championships for the San Miguel Beermen, who drafted him as the first overall pick in the 2012 rookie draft.
A testament to his unwavering commitment to the national team, Dwight Ramos was the lone Gilas player to suit up in all six Asian Qualifier windows.
And the Filipino-American guard was one of Gilas’ top players, too, in the qualifiers, averaging 12.4 points. 6.0 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.1 steals through 10 games.
Ramos looks to sustain his form in his first ever appearance in the Fiba World Cup.
He played two seasons in the B.League, playing for the Toyama Grouses in his first year from 2021-22 and continued his Japan stint with the Levanga Hokkaido last season.
Since getting the green light to play as a local, Jamie Malonzo has been serving the Gilas Pilipinas well that paved way for his World Cup debut.
The 6-foot-7 forward, who received his eligibility to play as a local in June last year, has been a solid addition to the men’s basketball team program in the second round of the Fiba World Cup Asian qualifiers.
The high-flying Barangay Ginebra winger played in the last six games of the Gilas windows, posting 5.8 points and 2.5 rebounds.
He was also solid in the recent buildups of the Philippines ahead of the World Cup starting on August 25.
Malonzo, who used to be a one-and-done for La Salle in the UAAP Season 82 in 2019 and became part of the mythical team, was drafted by Northport in the 2020 PBA Draft. He emerged as a member of the PBA All-Rookie team two years ago before he got traded to Ginebra last season and won the 2022-23 Commissioner’s Cup against the Bay Area Dragons.
Kai Sotto makes his World Cup debut despite his recent absence due to his back injury from the NBA Summer League.
The 7-foot-3 center missed the Europe camp due to his NBA Summer League stint with the Orlando Magic and the China pocket tournament as he got sidelined by back spasms. He rejoined the team in its final preparation in Manila where it faced Ivory Coast, Montenegro, and Mexico in friendlies.
The 21-year-old Sotto started his senior national team stint in the 2020 Fiba Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade, Serbia and in the 2021 Fiba Asia Cup qualifiers in Indonesia. He only played two games in the World Cup Asian qualifiers, where he averaged 13 points and 10.5 rebounds per match.
It will be his first World Cup appearance as a senior player as he and AJ Edu represented the country in the under 19 division four years ago.
Sotto played two seasons for the Adelaide 36ers in Australia’s National Basketball League before heading to Japan early this year, helping the Hiroshima Dragonflies in the latter part of the B.League season.
The undrafted big man from the 2022 NBA Rookie Draft played two games in the Summer League in Las Vegas, posting an average of 3.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.0 blocks, and 1.0 assist in 10.8 minutes per game.
AJ Edu seeks to complete his major comeback from several knee injuries that sidelined him from the national team in his first World Cup stint.
The 6-foot-10 big man has been instrumental in the recent friendlies and training camp of Gilas since returning to his national team duties after suffering a torn ACL and torn meniscus in his right knee including a hairline fracture on his right femur in the Under-19 World Cup four years ago.
Edu sustained another knee injury in November 2020 while practicing for the University of Toledo men’s basketball team recently.
The 23-year-old center will have a chance to help Gilas Pilipinas in facing Dominican Republic’s Karl-Anthony Towns in Group A including Italy and Angola, which has NBA big man Bruno Fernando.
Edu is also bound for Japan in the next B.League season after signing with the Toyama Grouses.
CJ Perez was one of the silver linings in the Gilas Pilipinas’ winless 2019 World Cup campaign as he debuted on the global stage with an average of 12.6 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.6 assists in five games in China.
A wiser and stronger Perez is out to help the Philippines surpass its previous two World Cup appearances in front of its home crowd after emerging as San Miguel Beermen’s key player in the recent PBA season where they won the the 2022 Philippine Cup.
The 2019 PBA Rookie of the Year and Mythical First Team, who was traded from Terrafirma to San Miguel, also helped Gilas regain its gold medal in the 2023 Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia.
The 29-year-old Perez played four Asian Qualifiers games, averaging 8.3 points, 2.5 assists, and 2.0 rebounds.
Scottie Thompson adds his first World Cup appearance to his rising PBA career.
The Barangay Ginebra star has proven himself as one of the top players of the PBA today by winning the 2021 PBA MVP and seven PBA championships including two Finals MVP trophies.
The do-it-all guard also proved that he can also thrive on the international stage after playing six games in the second round of the Fiba World Cup Asian qualifiers, averaging 6.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 4.8 assists.
Thompson vowed to do better after his last Fiba window game didn’t end well after missing the crucial free throws in Gilas’ 91-90 loss to Jordan at Philippine Arena last February that put his nine-point, seven-rebound, seven-assist outing to waste.
Japeth Aguilar is determined to lead by example to his teammates as the team captain in this year’s World Cup.
He is the longest-tenured national team player on the roster as he has been part of the program since Gilas 1 was formed in 2009.
The 6-foot-9 forward was also part of the Gilas team in 2013 that brought back the country to the World Cup after 36 years and campaigned in Seville, Spain the year after.
The 36-year-old Aguilar also saw action in the 2019 World Cup in China and won the Southeast Asian Games gold in the same year.
The Barangay Ginebra big man, who played four games in the Asian qualifier with an average of 7.5 points and 2.8 rebounds, could be making his last dance in his possible third straight world stint.
Aguilar has been playing for the Gin Kings for a decade, winning eight championships, the 2019 Governors’ Cup Finals MVP, three Mythical first-team selections, and as many All-Defensive Team recognitions, as well as two Mythical second team.
Known for his commitment to playing for the flag, Kiefer Ravena looks to perform better in his second World Cup stint.
The 29-year-old point guard has played for Gilas on several occasions including the World Cup in 2019 and won five Southeast Asian Games medals only to settle for silver in last year’s biennial meet in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Although in 2018 he was suspended by Fiba from playing basketball for 18 months after testing positive for banned substances, Ravena proved that he was still ready to carry the flag with his first World Cup stint in China.
The former Ateneo stalwart led the Philippines in the Fiba Asia Cup last year and played six games in the World Cup qualifiers, where he posted 6.2 points and 2.5 assists in five games.
Ravena, who was drafted by the NLEX Road Warriors as the second overall pick in the 2017 PBA draft, has been playing in Japan for the past two seasons with the Shiga Lakes, who will be relegated to the Division 2 starting this year.
Rhenz Abando’s rise continues as the World Cup becomes his next destination.
The 25-year-old winger has been making his presence felt in the Gilas build-ups coming off a championship run in the Korean Basketball League with Anyang KGC.
The player from La Union introduced his name to Philippine basketball when he had an impressive rookie year for University of Santo Tomas in 2019 reaching the UAAP Season 82 finals only to be a one-and-done after the infamous Sorsogon bubble during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
He took his act to Letran and stamped his class emerging as the Season 97 MVP, Rookie of the Year, and Mythical Five member on top of the Knights’ perfect title run before deciding to play in South Korea.
Abando represented the country in the Fiba Asia Cup and only played two games in the World Cup qualifier in the first round, where he averaged 6.5 points.
Roger Pogoy seeks to complete his unfinished business after an underwhelming performance in the World Cup four years ago.
The TNT shooter is making his second World Cup appearance and looking to bounce back from his struggles on the global stage in China last 2019 when he only averaged 4.0 points in five games.
The Far Eastern University product averaged 9.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.5 steals in four games during the Asian qualifier.
Pogoy, the 2017 PBA Rookie of the Year, is a two-time champion including TNT’s latest title run in the Governors’ Cup.
Coach Chot Reyes
Chot Reyes seeks to surpass his previous World Cup stint in Seville, Spain, where the team led by Jayson Castro and Jimmy Alapag pushed its opponents to its limits despite winning only one game.
In his second World Cup stint, the seasoned coach is eyeing to reach the second round and emerge as the best Asian team to book an outright ticket to the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Reyes steered Gilas to a silver in the 2013 Fiba Asia Championship to return to the world stage after 36 years.
After the infamous Gilas-Australia brawl in 2018, Reyes returned as Gilas coach in January last year, replacing Tab Baldwin.
The nine-time PBA champion coach and six-time Coach of the Year was calling the shots when the Philippines lost its SEA Games gold in Hanoi, Vietnam last year but he and the Justin Brownlee-led Gilas bounced back this year to reclaim their lost glory in Cambodia.
Coach Tim Cone
Tim Cone, the most successful PBA coach, will be on the side of Reyes when Gilas tries to defy the odds in the World Cup.
The Barangay Ginebra coach, who is the winningest in the PBA with 25 titles including two Grand Slams, rejoined the national team in the Asian qualifier to boost the program.
The 65-year-old Cone used to call the shots for the national team, winning the bronze with the Philippine Centennial team in the 1998 Asian Games and ruling the 2019 SEA Games in Manila.
Cone also served as an assistant on the Miami Heat staff at NBA Summer League in 2022.
Coach Jong Uichico
Jong Uichico has been part of Reyes’ coaching staff since 2013 when the Philippines ended a 36-year World Cup drought in their runner-up finish in the Fiba Asia Championship in Manila.
Uichico, who is also making his second World Cup campaign, called the shots for the national team in the 2002 Asian Games where they finished fourth.
He steered the country to two SEA Games golds in 2013 and 2017 and was also part of the national coaching staff in the past two biennial meets with silver and gold finishes in Vietnam and Cambodia, respectively.
The 61-year-old tactician is a nine-time PBA champion and two-time Coach of the Year with San Miguel, Ginebra, and TNT.