NATIONAL coach Chot Reyes will make the final cut in the Gilas Pilipinas team to the Fiba-Asia championships on Thursday, taking out one player from the current 13-man pool that is now deep in training in New Zealand.
And who could that be? Spin.ph asked around and this is what we came up with.
Big men June Mar Fajardo and Ranidel de Ocampo are shoo-ins to join naturalized center Marcus Douthit in the Gilas frontline.
The backcourt will definitely have combo guard Gabe Norwood, Jones Cup MVP LA Tenorio and Reyes' favorite slasher Jason Castro.
On the other hand, Gary David and Jeff Chan’s ability to hit from long range and attack the basket give them the edge over other players in the two-guard position.
That leaves Marc Pingris, Beau Belga, Japeth Aguilar, Jimmy Alapag and Larry Fonacier in the bubble.
Belga was the last addition to what was originally a 17-man pool but has been showing a lot of upsides for the national team since he was drafted five weeks ago.
Even Douthit has been very vocal in vouching for the big guy.
“He is pushing every single body on the floor. He gives up his body for everyone. I think it’ll be a great decision for coach Chot to keep him in the roster,” said Douthit of Belga, who also has the longest shooting range among the Gilas big men.
Pingris maybe an undersized forward when thrown against Asian counterparts, but Barako Bull Energy Cola coach Bong Ramos believes the Pangasinense will be a valuable piece for Gilas in the Manila showpiece.
“Energy guy si Marc. Mahusay pumuwesto sa rebound, magaling an timing. Saka iba yung hustle niya sa depensa. Maraming pwedeng gulating Asyano iyan,” said Ramos, a longtime international coach.
Former Gilas coach Rajko Toroman thinks Alapag can still be the "glue guy" of the team.
“Jimmy is an experienced point guard, he is deadly in the pick and roll. He can shoot long range. He has a high IQ,” said Toroman, who handled Alapag in the first Gilas Pilipinas team.
“Defensively he might have a problem because of the size, but he is the most veteran in the pool and that will be very important,” added the Serb.
Meanwhile, 2009 Team Pilipinas mentor Yeng Guiao sees his former player, Fonacier, as a "cold-blooded assassin" who can shoot down opponents once he hit his stride.
“Everybody knows the capabilities of Larry and how he has won games with his clutch shots,” said Guiao, who said the former Ateneo star has the ability on defense to "cover all angles."
Lastly, there's Aguilar, who was used sparingly by Toroman in the last Gilas team to the Fiba-Asia wars and was under-utilized by Reyes during his time with Talk 'N Text.
However, Aguilar’s last coach in the PBA, Junel Baculi, believes Japeth’s athleticism will make a difference for the national team.
“His athleticism for a 6-foot-9 guy, malaking bagay 'yun. Help side defense niya will be a plus for us. Saka yung mga malalaking guard at wingmen ng ibang bansa, he has the agility para sumabay sa mga yun,” said Baculi.
But Baculi said there is also a downside to Aguilar’s game: “Inexperience niya minsan sa paglalaro, yun ang downside. But in international play I’m sure nasanay na rin siya kasi matagal sa Gilas since Toroman pa di ba?”