JUNE Mar Fajardo, Greg Slaughter, Arwind Santos, Kelly Williams, and Marc Pingris are on Chot Reyes’ wish list as the Smart Gilas Pilipinas 2.0 coach looks to close gaps in his lineup in the wake of a fourth-place finish in the Fiba Asia Cup in Tokyo.
Arriving from Japan on Sunday afternoon, Reyes said a Tokyo campaign which Gilas ended with lopsided losses to Iran and Qatar exposed two glaring holes in his lineup – the need for a backup for Ranidel de Ocampo at power forward and a couple of big men that could keep the Nationals respectable in the middle when naturalized player Marcus Douthit takes a breather.
Reyes also said he is keen to test how Talk ‘N Text guard Jason Castro will fare under the Gilas setup, the same way he gave Sol Mercado a chance to show his wares during the title run in the Jones Cup and Jarred Dillinger during the Tokyo campaign.
“Glaring [na butas talaga] ang backup to Marcus and backup to Ranidel. Hopefully we can get a Slaughter or a Fajardo and then Kelly, Arwind and Ping (Pingris). ‘Yun naman talaga ang nasa pool eh,” Reyes said.
“And we need to see Jason (Castro) playing. Kailangan i-test. Na test na natin Jarred, mukhang kaya. Kailangan si Jason naman [ang bigyan ng opportunity].”
At the same time, Reyes said Garvo Lanete, Matt Rosser, Ian Sangalang, Ronald Pascual and Slaughter will be invited to be part of Sinag Pilipinas, the national team’s ‘B’ pool which he also hopes to bolster by holding tryouts for Fil-American prospects in the United States.
Reyes said an evaluation will be made on the team in the next few weeks, with an eye on the Fiba Asia for Men (formerly the ABC) tournament next year in Lebanon, where the top three finishers earn berths to the following year’s world basketball championships.
All members of the Jones Cup and Tokyo teams deserve to remain in the pool, Reyes said, but he added that no one at this point is guaranteed a spot in his 12-man lineup.
“What I can definitely say is this is an evaluation. Hindi maiiwasan yon. There’s gonna be an evaluation and whatever changes that need to be made will be made,” Reyes said. “But right now too it’s early to tell kung sino ang masasama.
“I think the players that went to Taipei and Japan, they all deserve to be in the pool. Now if they’re going to make the final twelve di pa natin alam.”
However, Reyes said he hopes the PBA will address a “gray area” in the memorandum of agreement on the lending of players to the national team so he can have a better idea on who will be available for him in the buildup for the Asian championships.
“Again that’s always a gray area. Hopefully we can get a more definite commitment in that regard,” Reyes said.
Curiously, Reyes was silent on a possible reshuffle of his armada of shooters, even though shooting had been Gilas’ Achilles heel in Tokyo. The team went a combined 24-of-113 from three-point range in the games that mattered in the Asia Cup, with no one among Jeff Chan, Gary David, Larry Fonacier, LA Tenorio , Gabe Norwood and Dillinger getting into any rhythm in Tokyo.
Reyes, however, said he hopes the PBA will adopt Fiba rules on traveling violations and start using the same rims that are used in Fiba-sanctioned tournaments, which players swore are firmer and as a result cause bigger bounces than the ones used in local leagues.
“If I can ask the PBA board and my fellow coaches if they’re willing to adopt the Fiba rules on traveling in the PBA. Number two, kung pwede palitan ang rim – rim lang ‘di ang board that fits Fiba’s. Malaking bagay 'din yon. If we don’t make outside shots against the big teams, we’ll have a hard time winning,” Reyes said.
“We have to get used to that kind of rim and to shooting against much bigger opponents and it will only come by continuously playing against much bigger teams.”
Looking back, Reyes said the Jones Cup and Tokyo tournaments have shown how good Gilas has become after just two overseas stints – and how much better it can be.
“Before this whole thing started, if someone said we’ll have one first [place] and one fourth, we’ll be happy. Kaya lang ngayon malungkot tayo, we all know we could have done better in Japan,” the Gilas coach said.
“But then again, we have to remember it’s just second tournament of the team, marami pang igagaling itong team na ito. Even after Taipei, we didn’t have any illusion sa tournament sa Japan and ang ganda nyan, more than anything else, we know how much more we have to go, how much longer we have to go if we’re to contend [sa Asian championships] next year.”