With Blatche back,Gilas still has a chance
By Al S. Mendoza
GILAS Pilipinas had the height against Kazakhstan.
In that game, the PHLTeam didn’t only have the “Twin Towers” in 7-footer Greg Slaughter and 6-foot-10 June Mar Fajardo.
Truth is, the duo even got beefed up by Japeth Aguilar, whose 6-foot-9 frame gave us actually a “Triple Towers.”
But still, we lost, putting our boys teetering on the brink.
The problem with our “Triple Towers” was, one of them wasn’t even a minor factor against the Kazakhs.
Slaughter, alas, was a non-factor.
He played nonsensically, his ceiling put to waste as he barely made his presence felt in the 40-minute struggle against Kazakhstan.
Which was a shame.
Wasn’t Slaughter our Man Mountain, who towered over all the rest, including Kazakhstan’s line-up almost wanting in height?
Coach Yeng Guiao was right in his assessment of Slaughter.
“He should refocus his mind when he’s playing an international game,” Guiao said of Slaughter.
Slaughter never had any fire in his eyes against Kazakhstan.
He barely exerted any effort to tangle with the enemy’s centers, allowing himself to be bullied underneath.
As a result, Guiao junked him for the Iran game.
It nearly paid off.
Gilas was virtually leading the much-taller Iran squad until turnovers defanged our boys.
From what looked like a safe 70-62 lead for Gilas with under three minutes left in the game, Iran’s sticky defense forced us into three quick turnovers.
That fueled a vicious16-0 finishing kick as Iran ran away with a 78-70 victory that put in jeopardy Gilas’ bid in the Fiba World Cup basketball qualifiers.
With that horrible ending against Iran, our boys now need to sweep their games against Qatar inDoha on Feb. 21 and Kazakhstan in Almaty (Qatar) on Feb. 24.
Since Gilas and Japan are chasing a third-to-fourth placing to possibly snatch a slot to the next round, our boys will bolsters their chances if the Japanese suffer a loss against either Iran or Qatar in their last two games.
Despite the tall odds we now face in our now imperiled mission to get back to the 2019 Fiba Worlds, Guiao is still confident, saying he will chop down his pool of 20 players to only 15.
“The chemistry is hard to find with so many players in the pool,” he said. “Fifteen should be the ideal number before we get to the Final 12 for our last two games inFebruary.”
I quite agree.
Too many players to choose from will only clutter your discretion and ability to select the best from the best.
And, yes, Guiao is right that naturalized Filipino Andray Blatche should return to the Gilas squad.
The 6-foot-10 Blatche has served his three-game suspension since his participation in that unfortunate Gilas-Australia brawl in July.
With Blatche around, our middle would be in good hands.
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