Tall front line, high-IQ guards surround Jordan Clarkson in Gilas’ World Cup roster
Gilas Pilipinas will surround naturalized ace Jordan Clarkson with a tall frontcourt along with versatile, high-IQ playmakers when it plunges into the Fiba World Cup this Friday.
Kai Sotto, AJ Edu, two-time World Cup veterans June Mar Fajardo and Japeth Aguilar form an imposing frontline, while do-it-all guards Dwight Ramos and Scottie Thompson lead a backcourt that will try to tab the lone Asian berth for the Paris Olympic Games set next year.
Joining the cast that will first be tested by the Dominican Republic this Friday at the cavernous Philippine Arena are CJ Perez, Roger Pogoy and Kiefer Ravena who all played in the previous edition of the global showcase held in China.
Jamie Malonzo and Rhenz Abando round out the squad that will be first tested by the world No. 23 Dominican Republic in the nightcap in Bocaue, Bulacan province, in front of a possible record crowd.
A list of the final roster was obtained by the Inquirer on Wednesday afternoon, ahead of the national federation’s announcement.
National coach Chot Reyes has since said that the final days of preparations leading up to the global showcase will be focused on film and schemes in a bid to polish whatever cracks remain in Gilas’ game.
“Just to continuously [help the players] understand how [each other] play offensively, how they attack and how they defend,” Reyes said during a practice session at Philsports Arena opened to the local media on Tuesday night.
“Balancing [that], with continuing to improve the flow of our offense, because it is not yet at the level where we want it to be [since] we’ve had some late [arrivals]. But everyone’s working hard. Everyone, I think, is approaching (the tournament) with the right mindset. Hopefully, these last days are going to get us to [a high] level.”
Reyes spent much of Tuesday’s practice plotting against the Dominicans, who will be reinforced with two NBA talents: Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns and Golden State Warriors guard Lester Quinones.
But the seasoned tactician said he is also wary of the mighty Italians, the World No. 10 squad who has been perfect in seven of their preparatory games.
“That team’s dangerous,” he said of The Blues, whom Gilas plays on Aug. 29. “I hope their losses come in the actual games.”
“But we all know how strong Italy is. They’re a top-10 team and they have been playing together for a long time. They may have what, one NBA player in the roster (Simone Fontecchio) but the other guys there, [Luigi] Datome, [Nicolo] Melli—they’re all really NBA-caliber players who just opted to play in Europe.”
“They’re a very tough team. They’re the team to beat in our group, no doubt. And for them to have a perfect slate in their tuneup schedule is not surprising to me,” Reyes said.
Gilas said that it plans to win at least two games in the group phase which should fan the program’s hopes of being the best-performing Asian team by the end of the World Cup.
But the Nationals have their work cut out for themselves with the likes of perennial powerhouse China, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon and cohost Japan hoping to do just the same.