GILAS Pilipinas 3.0 is slowly taking shape, with an initial batch of 16 players made available by the PBA to the national team bound for the Fiba Asia men's championships in Changsha, China next month.
The 16 players, led by holdovers Jayson Castro, Ranidel de Ocampo and Gary David as well as new faces Terrence Romeo and Calvin Abueva, will be joined by naturalized player Andray Blatche and possibly Gilas cadet Troy Rosario and Jimmy Alapag, in the event he pushes through with his plan to come out of retirement.
The PBA has also opened the door for three Gilas holdovers from the San Miguel bloc - namely June Mar Fajardo from SMB, Ginebra's LA Tenorio and Star's Marc Pingris - to join the pool while raising the possibility that more players will be made available in the new few days. We hope that include some of the players we listed down below.
Here are the five players who we hope would be made available to national coach Tab Baldwin, not because the members of the current pool are inadequate but because we're sure these players can play key roles if the Philippines is to win a spot in next year's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
1) Marcio Lassiter
The current Gilas pool can count on gunners like Gary David and Jayson Castro, but if Gilas wants a zone-buster there's no better player now in the PBA for that job than Marcio Lassiter.
The San Miguel guard is no doubt the top gun in the pro league at the moment, having made nearly half of his three-point shots in the last Governors Cup where he averaged an eye-popping 48.1 percent from beyond the arc (65-of-135) and slightly higher in the playoffs.
We're sure most of you will agree, it would be nice to have that kind of shooting against tall, zone-playing opponents like China and Iran.
2) Paul Lee
The Rain or Shine playmaker was impressive in his Gilas debut in last year's Fiba World Cup and the Asian Games, and it was easy to understand why.
Lee has the combination of skills, heft, strength and touch rare for Filipino guards. The former University of the East standout can also play multiple positions and, as shown in the Fiba Asia Cup in China, is capable of delivering in the most pressure-laden positions.
No disrespect but given a choice, we'll take Lee over most of the backcourt players in the current pool.
3) Mark Barroca
If Gilas coach Tab Baldwin fails to convince LA Tenorio to get onboard, the next best option, we feel, is Star guard Mark Barroca, who has both the skills and the international experience to fill the gap at the point guard position. With the exception of Jimmy Alapag in case he does unretire, the current Gilas lineup has no natural point guard. Besides, both Terrence Romeo and Jayson Castro are shoot-first guards. Barroca is exactly the pass-first guard who can give a different look to the offense off the bench.
4) June Mar Fajardo
It is easy to understand why fans are hoping and praying for Fajardo to rejoin Gilas. Not only is he the most dominant player in the PBA right now, the gentle giant has shown in the last Fiba-World Cup and Asian Games that he can hold his own against some of the best big men out there. The current pool now has big men Asi Taulava and Sonny Thoss, both of whom are ideal as back-ups but not as starters. And with naturalized player Andray Blatche reporting for camp out of shape, it has become even more imperative to have Fajardo in that lineup.
5) Jeff Chan
Take a good look at that current pool. Let's admit it, Baldwin is not exactly spoiled for choice when it comes to shooters. He obviously likes Dondon Hontiveros and, by force of circumstances or by choice, may give Gary David another run-out. But if he needs a guy who can spread the floor and knock down the three-pointer when left open, Chan is Baldwin's guy. Just search for Gilas' game against Croatia in last year's Fiba World Cup in Spain if you need more convincing.