The future of Gilas Pilipinas is up in the air.
Through a press conference held by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) on Thursday, FIBA revealed its decision regarding the July 2 brawl between the Philippines and Australia where 10 players received game suspensions.
Though the national team took a major hit from the sanctions, there's no reason to believe that the Philippines will be booted out of the ongoing FIBA World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifiers. With a 4-2 record, Gilas finished in second within Group B, and merged with Group D to form a six-team Group E in the second round. The squad is set to begin it's fourth home and away window by taking on Iran and Qatar beginning on September 13.
That gives the national team a scant three months to prepare for really tough opponents. The Philippines has always had trouble with the size and veterans of Iran, while Qatar has never gone down without a fight. With the uncertainty clouding the team's future, it's imperative that Gilas begins the process of replacing the players affected by the FIBA ruling.
WHO WILL MISS WHICH GAMES?
Iran (Away) on Sept. 13, 2018 -- All 10 suspended players will be out.
Qatar (Home) on Sept. 17, 2018 -- Romeo, Castro, Blatche, Rosario, Pogoy, Cruz, Jalalon, Abueva out.
Kazakhstan (Home) on Nov. 30, 2018 -- Romeo, Castro, Blatche, Rosario, Pogoy, Cruz, Jalalon, Abueva out.
Iran (Home) on Dec. 3, 2018 -- Pogoy, Cruz, Jalalon, Abueva out.
Qatar (Away) on Feb. 21, 2019 -- Pogoy, Cruz, Jalalon, Abueva out.
Kazakhstan (Away) on Feb. 24, 2019 -- Abueva out.
That's where we come in. Presented below are some potential players that could come in as replacements for the 10 Gilas members who were banned by FIBA.
But first, let's take a look at the 24-man pool Gilas coach Chot Reyes tweeted last year. Incidentally, Coach Chot and assistant coach Jong Uichico will also miss one and three games, respectively. The SBP said they are still deciding on a replacement for the Iran game on September 13.
🙏🙏🙏 #💪🇵🇭❤️ pic.twitter.com/BGYcgTmsu5— Chot Reyes (@coachot) July 8, 2017
The pool is deep with veterans and amateurs. Unfortunately, Kiefer Ravena (suspension) and Kevin Alas (injury) will no longer be available. With that being said, here are the remaining players from the pool that could be playing in September:
Bobby Ray Parks
It's a solid list. The availability of Christian Standhardinger, who will be filling in the naturalized player role, will be of upmost significance, especially with Blatche unavailable for three games. Save for Kobe Paras and Ray Parks, all of the members of the pool have been seeing action for their mother teams in the PBA. They should be ready to go if they get the call.
But let's take it a step further. Gilas will be looking for the best available players to fill the gaping holes especially for the first game against Iran on September 13 where 10 players will be out, and the second against Qatar and third against Kazakhstan where eight players will still be unavailable.
Here are some players who could be good fits.
Greg Slaughter (Barangay Ginebra)
If he's healthy, Slaughter should be a shoo-in. Filipinos with the height and skills of Slaughter don't grow on trees. When engaged and fully healthy, Slaughter could be a tough match for any big man in the tournament.
JP Erram (Blackwater Elite)
Poy Erram will definitely not be asked to score. But he can man the paint with his ability to block shots and rebound the ball. He'd be a solid choice as the third center for Gilas.
Ian Sangalang (Magnolia Hotshots)
It has been a season of rejuvenation thus far for the former San Sebastian Stag. Before he was forced to miss time because of his wrist injury, Sangalang proved to be a crafty scorer in the paint, and an underrated post defender. He might not have the ability to space the floor which most bigs have in the international game, but he's a solid scorer who can also finish in pick-and-roll situations.
Marcio Lassiter (San Miguel Beermen)
The natural replacement for Matthew Wright. Fans still dream of the day that Lassiter and Wright will share the floor together in a Philippines uniform, but so far it hasn't happened. Lassiter could come in and immediately have a huge impact on the team with his shooting, underrated perimeter defense and ball handling. He's a must-have for Gilas.
A bit of a wildcard for a player that's not yet in the PBA, but Abu Tratter has shown that he's worthy of being considered. He was rock solid in the Filoil Tournament as part of the Gilas 23 for 2023 team. He doesn't make a lot of mistakes, and is able to defend multiple positions. If not for anything, he'd be a good practice player to push the veterans on the team.
Arwind Santos (San Miguel Beermen)
He's on the wrong side of 30, yes. He's not as explosive a leaper and finisher, sure. But Arwind Santos has found ways to evolve, no matter what stage of his career he's in. Now, he's a proven three-point shooter, that can still be a terrific help defender. Say what you want about him, but Santos is a guy any player would want to go to war with.
Vic Manuel (Alaska Aces)
Need buckets? Bring in Vic Manuel. The undersized forward may find it difficult at times to defend against bigger forwards, but on offense? Forget about it. Manuel is proving in the Commissioner's Cup that he can score against anyone. Bring him off the bench and watch him contribute right away.
Scottie Thompson (Barangay Ginebra)
The fit might not be perfect because of his shooting struggles, but Scottie Thompson is just so unique a player that he's worth considering. After all, how many guards can be a triple-double threat because of his rebounding? If anything, Thompson grabbing a rebound over players twice his size might be good for four to six second chance points.
Jericho Cruz (TNT KaTropa)
A great scorer and a sneaky good playmaker. Jericho Cruz would be a great choice as a backup shooting guard, similar to his role now with TNT. He can shoot the ball really well, and loves to get out in transition.
Paul Lee (Magnolia Hotshots)
Another player who, if healthy, should be a great choice. Lee's clutch scoring and swagger are very much part of his legend. But with Castro unavailable, Gilas will need someone who can create his own shot and find a way to attack the middle. Lee can be that guy.
LA Tenorio (Barangay Ginebra) or Mark Barroca (Magnolia Hotshots)
Gilas will need veterans to help serve as mentors for whichever squad will comprise our team in September. And for that, LA Tenorio and Mark Barroca are perfect fits. It's hard to choose between the two, because they're such great floor generals. Tenorio could be the choice if the team needs more of a scoring punch and a gifted passer, but Barroca's relentless defense and ability to hit mid-range jumpers is crucial as well. Whatever the case may be, having either of these point guards on the roster could be a big deal.