IT'S time to overthink the Philippines vs Lebanon face-off. Gilas has already taken the L, and now we move on. Saudi Arabia is expected to be an easier foe, and since we are on the "learning experience" rally, here's an armchair evaluation that nobody asked for.
It would be foolish to judge based on one game, so we would also consider past Gilas performances, and possible development arcs. The FIBA World Cup is still a year away, and the players mentioned here could improve.
See you in August 2023
Of course, we'll start off with roster changes. Based on the Lebanon tussle, I'd say we have only four players who should have their jerseys already reserved (if we're lucky, keep your fingers crossed). Anyone who watched the game could guess. These are Jordan Clarkson, Kai Sotto, Japeth Aguilar and Dwight Ramos.
Clarkson is carrying the team on offense, and he has full confidence in Ramos, evidently more than he has for his other teammates. Ramos didn't fail him, as he has the confidence and the skills to back it up. He can play both guard positions at a world class level, so he is the perfect backcourt mate for Clarkson.
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Sotto and Aguilar were the only legit bigs we had, and they got stretched to their limits. Kai has become a solid rim protector, and he no longer looks fragile. Our wunderkind has done his best and it has paid off, NBA dream or not. As mentioned in the previous column, the NBA is simply on another level and that is why Clarkson is head and shoulders above the rest.
Aguilar's game has matured and he gambles a lot less on long-range shots on offense. Both players were obviously winded in the latter part of the game, so the first thing we need to add are additional bigs.
Badly needed: Additional big men
There are only two recommendations for this: June Mar Fajardo and AJ Edu. Both are 6'10, and have contrasting playing styles. Edu is returning from a serious injury and hopefully he displays full recovery in the US College season. JMF, despite the criticism on how he adapts to international play, the Kraken is still a better option than the trio of Ian Sangalang, JP Erram and Raymond Almazan. One of these three players may be added as insurance in case of injury, and all of them are likely joining the pool for practice.
Sadly, we have yet to add to this pool of big men. We have numerous 6'8 players who are more suited for the wing at the world stage, but these are our big men, barring better development from Carl Tamayo (who may end up as a better option than the other veterans), Geo Chiu, or the possible "localization" of Ange Kouame.
Badly needed: Defensive wing stopper
Every team will have a Wael Arakji who is cunning enough to always break the defense. Some would even have more than one. We need a true, committed defensive wing stopper who can neutralize or minimize threats like Arakji.
In the past, we had Gabe Norwood for this role, and he did it superbly. Coach Tab Baldwin used Will Navarro on his teams. I thought Thirdy Ravena would play this role, but he seems undersized and unable to keep up. Perhaps they should try out Roosevelt Adams, but this position still needs a candidate.
Badly needed: Knockdown shooters
The main criticism for the Ravenas is not that they are bad players, but there are players who could better fit the bill. I understand that the Japan/International experience was a factor, but players like Robert Bolick, or even CJ Perez who is not the best shooter, but can find ways to score, could be considered.
Ray Parks was underwhelming in that game, and he is supposed to be the nearest to Clarkson's caliber. He, Scottie Thompson and Chris Newsome could deserve return trips, but they need to prove that they can be as reliable and consistent as Dwight Ramos. So could Calvin Oftana.