NOT a few are saying that the 20-man pool made available to Philippine coach Yeng Guiao for the fifth window of the Fiba World Cup qualifiers is one of the best - if not the best - national team ever assembled.
Serbian coach Rajko Toroman couldn't agree more.
Toroman stressed that having a national pool so tall with a 6-foot-10 June Mar Fajardo and seven-footer Greg Slaughter along with a 6-9 Japeth Aguilara 7-2 prospect in Kai Sotto in the frontline “is unimaginable.”
“Gilas definitely has height and has a good mix of young and seasoned players. This is the best team ever, if I may say,” Toroman, the pioneering coach of the Gilas Pilipinas program, told SPIN.ph from his home in Belgrade.
“During my time as its coach, we only utilized collegiate players. We had problems picking PBA players. Now the situation is totally different, the coach can choose all the players he wants,” said Toroman.
“During my time, Greg Slaughter and June Mar Fajardo were very young. June Mar didn’t join Gilas, Slaughter was partly joining Gilas. We had problem with height, even if during those times, Asi Taulava was helping us,” he recalled.
Toroman said he's happy to know that the Philippine team is not wanting in size, for a change.
Aside from the quadruple towers of Fajardo, Slaughter, Aguilar and Sotto, the Philippines also has versatile big men in Ian Sangalang, Poy Erram, Asi Taulava, Raymond Almazan, and Beau Belga in the pool.
The 63-year old former coach of the Iran national team also stressed that size is not the team's only strong suit, taking note of a deep backcourt that can count on Paul Lee, Jayson Castrom Paul Lee, LA Tenorio and Gabe Norwood.
“It’s a very big team. And I think, the Philippines is on its way back to its status of being a powerful team in Asia,” said Toroman. “The team has size and yet they have very quick and experienced players like (Jayson) Castro, (LA) Tenorio, Paul Lee, (Gabe) Norwood.”
Toroman, of course, is happy to see his former player at Gilas, Marcio Lassiter, finally back in the national team program, calling the SMB sniper 'Europe-ready.'
“Marcio is new (to the team), but I always say Marcio is Europe-ready. He has size, he has defense, he is a great player. Alex Cabagnot is a great clutch player. Castro is there, Paul Lee, Norwood, Tenorio. You have everything that is possible, I think that’s a great team,” he added.
Toroman also believes that with or without Andray Blatche, the Philippines is capable of hurdling its next two rivals in Iran and Kazakhstan.
“With or without Andray Blatche, I can see the Philippines winning against Iran and Kazakhstan. Christian Standhardinger is a very hardworking guy and he is effective at his position,” said the former Jordan national coach.
“I don’t care if they lost against Australia. Australia is one of the best teams in the world. But I think now - Gilas is formidable. The next two games will be good for the Philippines, they are favored,” he added.
“Iran is no longer that strong like before. Kazakhstan is not on its old level. It degenerated the last three years. The next two games, Gilas will win.”