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.
Let’s review each Gilas Pilipinas player’s performance in Part 1 of this series.
If there was anything positive to take away from this experience — it was the stellar play of perhaps the biggest revelation of the tournament, CJ Perez. The 25-year-old seldom looked like a neophyte in his first World Cup, as he brought a composed yet fearless approach each time he stepped foot on the hardwood.
Perez normed 12.6 points on 54 percent shooting from the field, to go along with 3.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists in just 19 minutes of play. He also hit a couple of big time shots — particularly in the Angola game that went to overtime. He also dismissed notions that he can’t shoot consistently, making 33 percent of his attempts from downtown (2nd in the team behind Bolick).
After another disappointing setback in the world stage, many pundits are now questioning if naturalized center Andray Blatche has played his final game in a Gilas uniform. His frustrations came to a boiling point against Iran in their final game, as he was ejected in the midway part of the fourth quarter after incurring two technical fouls.
Blatche still led the team in points per game (15.8) and rebounds (8.4). However, his conditioning was once again not up to par, evidenced by him taking off on multiple defensive possessions that often left Gilas in a disadvantage. Blatche will be 37 years old when the 2023 World Cup comes, and it will be interesting to see what move the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas elects to do in the future.
The returning Ravena has taken the most heat from some pundits, who continue to question why he was included in the final line-up after being away from the game for 18 months due to FIBA’s suspension. The two-time UAAP MVP averaged 17.7 minutes in five games — which again has raised some eyebrows with some claiming it took away precious playing time from the likes of Robert Bolick and Paul Lee, whom performed better in the tourney.
Ravena tallied 4.8 points, 1.4 rebounds, and 1.6 assists on a measly 19 percent shooting clip from the field.
For a team that has seen a revolving door of players over the years, Gabe Norwood has remained the lone constant for the Philippine national team. His high basketball IQ and defensive tenacity has been vital for Gilas over the years but at 34 years old, there’s no denying that he has shown some wear and tear in this year’s World Cup.
Norwood continues to be Gilas’ best lockdown defender at the wings, but he has become a total liability on the other end of the floor. Defenders have often exposed this throughout the tourney, often going under screens and daring him to shoot. Norwood only normed 1.2 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 1.2 assists in five games.
With his supreme physical gifts and international experience, Japeth Aguilar was heavily utilized by coach Yeng Guiao as he was second in minutes played behind Blatche at 20.9 per game.
However, the extended usage did not result in steady production, as he only averaged 4.8 points, 3.0 boards, and 1.0 assist. Aguilar’s basketball IQ was once again in question throughout the World Cup after several missed rotations on defense and uncontested point-blank misses on offense.
After gaining some valuable experience in the World Cup Qualifiers, many thought Troy Rosario was poised for a bigger role for the Philippines this year. With shooters Matthew Wright and Marcio Lassiter out due to injuries, he was expected to pick up the slack especially after shooting 33 percent from three in the last two PBA conferences.
The 6’7 swingman, however, was non-factor in five games, notching 2.8 points and 4.6 rebounds in 19 minutes of play. His shooting touch was gone in toward stage as well, as he only drained 10 percent of his attempts.
(Images from FIBA)