SBP President Al Panlilio lived up to his word when he mentioned that the current 24-man pool for Gilas Pilipinas will feature a great mix of some of the best amateur and professional standouts in the country.
Bringing back national team mainstays such as Kiefer Ravena, Troy Rosario, Matthew Wright, RR Pogoy, Japeth Aguilar, CJ Perez, and Christian Standhardinger were certainly a no-brainer, but they also got an interesting mix of young and veteran players as well.
They got great amateur standouts in Kobe Paras, Thirdy Ravena, Isaac Go, and de Liano brothers who could help too plus some projects that they could also prop up for the future.
Interestingly, PBA five-time MVP awardee June Mar Fajardo was not included in the list. However, Panlilio indicated that they were keen on giving him an “extended break” since he’s served the country for quite some time now.
All of these standouts will try to make their case in the Final 12 as they prepare for the upcoming FIBA Asia Qualifiers in February.
But first, allow FOX Sports Philippines to examine on how and which players can contribute to the national team program right away.
National team mainstays
Already familiar to international basketball, we already know what can these PBA players bring to the table.
Kiefer Ravena has finally found his form after being sidelined for more than a year due to his doping violation. The NLEX Road Warrior is a surefire cornerstone for the national team as one of their reliable playmakers and shot creators.
CJ Perez, meanwhile, is an explosive guard who can wreak havoc on both ends. The Columbian Dyip speedster is a ball of energy that can terrorize opponents whether on the fast break or in a half-court set. His defense has improved as well thanks to his growing basketball IQ.
Manning the middle are the likes of Christian Standhardinger and Japeth Aguilar. Standhardinger is a crafty finisher and is an underrated passer that can rack up double-doubles while Japeth Aguilar is an athletic specimen that can block shots and finish strong inside the paint. Both of these bigs also have an improved jumper to where they can draw out the defense a little bit.
Troy Rosario, RR Pogoy, and Matthew Wright will be expected to be the designated sharpshooters for Gilas. All of them are versatile 3-and-D guys that could create their shot as well.
Thirdy Ravena and the rest of the special Gilas Draft selection are the names that quickly come into mind when asked about who can contribute right away.
The younger Ravena is a versatile and athletic forward who can evolve as a reliable Swiss Army knife for Gilas. However, he may need to further hone his outside shot and playmaking in order to fulfill his full potential.
Isaac Go is a unique stretch big that can bang bodies in the interior. He is a steady leader and has shown great poise especially in clutch situations.
The Nieto brothers, Rey Suerte, and Allyn Bulanadi offer similar skillsets for Gilas. Suerte and Bulanadi are deadshot combo guards who can develop into two-way players while the Nieto brothers have shown the capability to play well within a team-centric system.
On the other hand, Kobe Paras is also an interesting addition. The UP swingman possesses a quick first step and a high-leaping ability, but he has yet to fully display his improved outside shooting and elite passing skills.
Some unheralded names and a grizzled veteran are the wildcards in this pool, and it will be interesting to see how can they contribute to the program at this point in time.
The de Liano brothers offer a unique conundrum when it comes to rounding out the Final 12. Javi is a stocky swingman that can slash his way to the paint while Juan is a combo guard that can create his own shot. Both of them can deepen the team’s rotation and may be called upon to help when needed.
Justine Baltazar and Dave Ildefonso are some amateur standouts that can be treated as projects for Gilas Pilipinas. Baltazar is a post up powerhouse and a relentless rebounder, but he has shown glimpses of his outside shot. Ildefonso, meanwhile, is a bucket getter but needs improvement in terms of poise and maturity.
Surprisingly, Marc Pingris is added into the mix given his advancing age and injury history. The originator of #PUSO is expected to provide guidance and some hustle plays despite his height disadvantage compared to his much taller counterparts.