Tim Cone, Gilas Pilipinas coach for the upcoming Southeast Asian Games, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) president Al Panlilio, PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial and the PBA Board, unveiled the 15-man national team pool for the 5x5 men's competition on Thursday. ESPN5.com's Charlie Cuna, Carlo Pamintuan, Jutt Sulit, Eros Villanueva, and Noel Zarate react to the player selections.
The Gilas player pool for the SEA Games: LA Tenorio, Scottie Thompson, Stanley Pringle, Japeth Aguilar, Greg Slaughter, Art dela Cruz, Jayson Castro, RR Pogoy, Troy Rosario, Chris Ross, Marcio Lassiter, Christian Standhardinger, June Mar Fajardo, Vic Manuel, and Matthew Wright.
1. In one word, this 15-man Gilas pool is...
Charlie: "OVERTHETOP". That's one word.
Jutt: Merciless. We've dominated previous SEA Games with casts of Gilas Cadets and amatuer all-stars. To send out a team of all pros is going to make sure that we don't only win it all, but we completely destroy every opponent
Eros: Stacked. The blend of size, speed, and shooting that can be fielded at any given point in the tournament by coach Tim Cone should be enough to easily overwhelm the opposition.
Noel: Strong. With six Ginebra players, the familiarity to the Tim Cone system will already be there. It has the height, speed and experience to crush all foes in the competition. You're looking at an average margin of victory of at least 20 points against the Thailands, Indonesias and Malaysias and at least 40 points against everyone else.
2. The absence of a naturalized player is...
Charlie: ALRIGHT, considering it is for the SEA Games and behemoths do not abound.
Carlo: Understandable. It's added cost and if we couldn't get Andray Blatche enough time to get to know his new teammates, it would not be productive anyway.
Jutt: Not going to be a factor. Not in the SEA Games. Not with how strong the pool is. This should not be an issue. We'll still lord over competition.
Eros: Not a huge loss. This pool has adequate offensive options from every position and defensively, coach Tim can throw any of Standhardinger, Fajardo, Slaughter and Manuel against opposing bigs -- local or naturalized -- and get the same, if not better, results that Blatche or any other naturalized player would have provided on that end.
Noel: Fine, considering the opposition in the SEA Games. Fajardo, Standhardinger, Slaughter and Aguilar alone could have the Philippines controlling the entire rebounding and rim protection department. Even if the higher tiered countries field in a naturalized big man, the surrounding bigs will still pale in comparison to the huge Philippine front line.
3. What I like most about the pool is...
Charlie: The coach. Tim Cone, even with limited time, will surely whip them into fighting form, but, more importantly, make them fully understand that they are not supposed to lose a single game and, considering their talent and firepower, not even allow any opponent to make a serious challenge. That is some necessary pressure.
Carlo: Coach Tim Cone trusts each and every single player in the pool.
Jutt: It's going to be fun to watch. No disrespect to other countries competing but it should be an All-Star game showcase with such a loaded Philippine contingent.
Eros: The level of talent present. Coach Tim and SBP are definitely not playing around and are really going all in on their gold medal aspirations.
Noel: It was all bases covered. From guards like Ross, Tenorio and Castro to shooters like Lassiter, Wright and Pogoy to bruisers like Manuel, Pringle and Standhardinger. The massive task is actually who to cut.
4. The player/s I would have wanted in the pool is/are...
Charlie: Some of the non-PBA youngsters earlier rumored to be among those considered, such as Ricci Rivero, Thirdy Ravena, Justine Baltazar, and Dave Ildefonso. Perhaps Robert Bolick and CJ Perez could have been included as well. The SEA Games are probably the perfect opportunity for the younger players to gain exposure, experience, and confidence. Maybe two years from now, they'll all be there.
Carlo: Gabe Norwood because I think he deserves at least a proper exit from the national team. I would have also wanted to see Robert Bolick and CJ Perez but I can't complain because of the reasons coach Tim stated.
Jutt: Well I thought the first names announced into the pool was going to be fun to watch. Imagine having Thirdy Ravena, Juan Gomez de Liaño, Kobe Paras and Ricci Rivero in one team. That would have been one long highlight reel.
Eros: Probably one or both of CJ Perez or Robert Bolick. Coach Tim talked a lot about continuity during his press conference with SBP, and it might have helped future editions of Gilas Pilipinas if the groundwork that will be laid for Philippine basketball in the following years has one or both its future pillars every step of the way.
Noel: Perhaps Terrence Romeo or even Gilas Gabe. Romeo just to add a little spice on the highlight reel (not that any of these gentlemen will not be providing a whole lot) and Norwood for that extra defensive sock (in case there will be a naturalized forward). But this pool is more than enough in all aspects.
5. Agree or disagree with Cone's decision to leave out amateur players
Charlie: Disagree, but I understand. Given the choice and a free rein to select, it is completely understandable for Coach Tim to opt for the, shall we say, "surer thing". This team should win handily.
Carlo: Agree. It eliminates the trouble of having to deal with the schedules of the collegiate leagues.
Jutt: I'm in no position to question the winningest coach in the land. I would have loved to see younger guys in the mix but I trust Coach Tim's decision. Maybe one day, if I too have 20 PBA championships, I'll have a say.
Eros: I agree with it. Coach Tim said it himself: "Generally, veterans are easier to coach short-term." That definitely means the margin for error during their build-up is minimal, and the learning curve for amateur players when it comes to international play is usually steep. They're not taking any chances.
Noel: Disagree. I'm sure a number of veterans on the pool would gladly give up their spots to see make room for a Thirdy Ravena, Ricci Rivero or a Justine Baltazar. I don't see the ASEAN teams having enough arsenal to create an upset like in 1989 (when professional players were still not allowed to compete). So having at least two non-pros in the pool would not have hurt the Philippines' chances.