Gilas Pilipinas will be playing in Foshan, China in the FIBA World Cup. The Philippines found itself in Group D with two European teams, Serbia and Italy, and the most dominant team in Africa in the last 3 decades, Angola. In this 3-part series, we will look at how Gilas Pilipinas matches up with each of the 3 teams it will be facing.
Angola: FIBA World Ranking – 38th
FIBA World Cup – 17th place, 2014; 15th place, 2010; 9th place, 2006
Olympic Appearances: 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008
FIBA Africa: 7th place, 2017; 2nd place, 2015; 1st place, 2013
A number of Fiipino fans rejoiced when Angola was drawn to Group D with Gilas Pilipinas. The thinking was that the Philippines could easily handle the Angolans. But the worse thing Gilas Pilipinas can do in the World Cup is to focus their attention only on Serbia and Italy and look past Angola.
In their last World Cup appearance in 2014, Angola finished 17th compared to the Philippines which placed 21st. What China and Iran have been to Asian basketball, Angola was to African basketball. Angola has been the most dominant team in the African region in the last 30 years, having won the FIBA Africa championship 11 out of the last 15 stagings. Angola may not have any NBA players in their line-up, but their solid basketball program which is predicated on a relentless running attack has allowed it to defeat teams like Nigeria, Tunisia, and Senegal which are all bannered by NBA players.
In the qualifiers, two Angolans stood out with their stellar play. These were center Yanick Moreira, who played for the SMU Mustangs in the US NCAA, and 6’3 guard Carlos Morais. Moreira paced the Angolans with his averages of 12.8 points and 7.2 rebounds, while Morais scored 12.6 points in 9 games. The 6’9 Moreira played in the NBA Summer League for the Los Angeles Clippers in 2015 and for the Toronto Raptors in 2016 before being waived prior to the regular season. The leader of the Angolans is 36-year-old forward Olimpio Cipriano who has been playing international basketball since 2002. The 6’4 Cipriano, who played for the Detroit Pistons in the 2007 NBA Summer League, played nine games in the qualifier and remains the glue that holds the Angolan team together.
Although not as tall and imposing as the other African teams, Angola also boasts of a solid frontline. Providing Moreira with the inside muscle is 6’8 naturalized player Reggie Moore who played US NCAA Division I basketball. There are three other Angolan bigs with US NCAA experience who did not see action in the qualifers but may possibly be tapped by Angola’s American Coach Will Voigt. These are 6’10 center Vander Joaquim (Obras Sanitarias, Argentina) who was Christian Standhardinger’s teammate at the University of Hawaii, 21-year-old 6’10 center Bruno Fernando of the Maryland Terrapins who was the MVP of the 2016 FIBA Africa Under-18 Championships, and 20-year-old power forward 6’9 Silvio De Sousa of the Kansas Jayhawks.
One thing going for Gilas Pilipinas when they face the Angolans is that the Filipinos may have a distinct advantage in the backcourt. Coach Voigt has turned over the playmaking reins to 5’10 Gerson Domingos, a 22-year-old point guard who is backstopped by 6’5 Leandro Conceicao and 22-year-old Gerson Goncalves. None of these trio can be considered game-changers, and it will be up to Jayson Castro and Coach Yeng Guiao’s platoon of guards to optimize this edge in the backcourt.
Angola is a veteran team handled by an outstanding coach. Cipriano, Morais, and Moore are all in their 30s and are grizzled campaigners who know how to handle the pressure in the international stage. Expect a dog fight among Italy, Angola, and the Philippines in the quest to advance to the 2nd round of the World Cup.
(Images from FIBA)