To say that Gilas Pilipinas had an underwhelming run in the 2019 FIBA World Cup would be an understatement.
Oftentimes, it was painful to watch. It simply was a nightmare — for the players, the coaches, and the millions of fans back home. Not only did the Philippines lost five consecutive contests in the world stage, they did so with an average margin of 29.4 points. Gilas finished dead last among the 32 nations after accumulating the worst point differential among the other winless teams.
The beating they took against the Italians and the Serbians showed just how far behind our basketball program is compared to some of the world’s best. The supposed morale-building victory we could have had against Angola probably hurt the most, considering it was the only competitive outcome we’ve had.
The last two blowout losses to Tunisia and Iran were simply just the nail in the coffin of an otherwise disappointing turnout.
There’s no denying that our players gave it all they got regardless of the turnout. Most struggled against the bigger, better, and more prepared competition, while a select few rose to the occasion and still gave hope to the future of Philippine basketball moving forward.
This time, we review each Gilas Pilipinas player’s performance in Part 2 of this series.
June Mar Fajardo
With his fine performance in the World Cup, perhaps it’s time for the critics to heap some praise his way.
The five-time PBA MVP did a decent job on manning the center spot for Gilas, even if he may look to be over-matched at times. The Cebu native tallied norms of 7.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 0.8 steals, and 0.4 blocks per game. Some of his best performances include his efficient outing versus Italy and his 10-point game against Iran.
But for me, it was refreshing to see him going up against the mastodons of Serbia in Nikola Jokic and Boban Marjanovic. While those two were way better skills-wise, Fajardo showed his #Puso by standing his ground against those NBA players.
He, along with CJ Perez, were bright spots indeed for the Philippine national team as both of them showed energy, hustle, and courage against their much bigger counterparts.
The Northport Batang Pier guard was one of the leading scorers for the national team, posting norms of 8.6 points on 47-percent shooting from the field. Many pundits are expecting him to headline Gilas’ 2023 squad, but he’ll have to improve on his defense and three-point shooting if he wants to take his game to the next level.
Paul Lee was expected to fill the shooting void left by Marcio Lassiter and Matthew Wright, but his usual shots weren’t falling for some reason in this tourney.
His main highlight, however, was his game against Serbia were he chipped in 15 points on 46-percent shooting from the field. The former UE cager has shown the ability to be creative on his shots but a few dimes or rebounds here and there could’ve propped up his numbers even further.
Like Lee, RR Pogoy was supposed to be one of the 3-and-D threats for Coach Yeng Guiao, but it hasn’t come into fruition as he struggled to make an impact on both ends on the floor.
The TNT wing averaged only four points per game and he shot poorly from beyond the arc at only 25-percent. Along with his offensive woes, he also had a hard time stopping the other forwards from the other teams. Well, if you’ll get to guard the likes of Belinelli, Bogdanovic, and Nikkahbahrami on straight occasions, maybe you could cut him some slack.
Mark Barroca’s value doesn’t necessarily reflect on the box score since his primary role is to defend and make the correct plays for the SBP-backed squad. From time-to-time, the Magnolia Hotshots floor general would be in the starting lineup and served as a stabilizing presence given his previous international experience.
He averaged only 3.8 points and 0.3 assists per game for the squad on around 11 minutes of playing time. But more importantly, Barroca was a helpful mentor to guys like CJ Perez, Robert Bolick, and Kiefer Ravena.
Filling in one of Gilas’ last spots, it’s safe to say that Raymond Almazan didn’t make much of an impact in this World Cup but it’s largely due to the limited minutes given to him.
The Meralco Bolts big man only played an average of 5.3 minutes and only made a shot once for the whole tourney. With June Mar Fajardo, Japeth Aguilar, and Andray Blatche soaking up all the minutes in the rotation, Almazan shouldn’t be criticized much for his performance this time around.
(Images from FIBA)