A new era in the Gilas Pilipinas men's basketball program was officially launched Friday with the announcement of the 24-man pool for the February window of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers. The pool is a mix of PBA veterans and collegiate standouts, from which 12 players will be selected to play against Thailand and Indonesia next month. We asked ESPN5.com writers Chuck Araneta, Charlie Cuna, Carlo Pamintuan, Jutt Sulit and Noel Zarate about their thoughts on this line-up.
1. So what do you think of this 24-man pool?
Chuck: About what I expected. The Gilas draftees together with some up and coming PBA stars, and a few veterans sprinkled in that can provide guidance and teach the young bloods about what it takes to represent Gilas Pilipinas with pride.
Charlie: It's eclectic.
Carlo: It's a very interesting mix of youngsters and veterans. With the group formed for qualification in the FIBA Asia Cup, it's difficult to really pin down what the immediate goal should be as SBP is focused on building the best team for the 2023 World Cup. I'm sure they want to send a competitive team but at the end of the day the focus will still be about development of the athletes who can still play for Gilas three years from now.
Jutt: It's something we need at this point. We're obviously very grateful to our Gilas vets for the service they've offered to our national team but we'll have to transition at some point. This is the perfect time.
Noel: It's a fast pool. Even the guys playing at the pivot can run the fastbreak. There are also a number of good shooters to choose from. For the competition the squad is going to be pitted against, this is a solid pool to make selections.
2. Three names that stand out for you.
Chuck: Marc Pingris, Dwight Ramos, Ray Parks Jr.
I'm so happy for Pingris, someone who has always chomped at the bit to represent Gilas Pilipinas. Injuries were seen to have prematurely ended his opportunities to represent the country, and many people would have thought that Pingris was ready to move on from that chapter in his career. But heck no, apparently! And I'm here for it! More Sakuragi is always a good thing.
Dwight Ramos turned a lot of heads because he's a relative unknown who will be suiting up next season with Ateneo. He has a chance to really make an early impact. And as for Parks, I'm just happy to see that he's still open to suiting up for Gilas Pilipinas. He's a tremendous talent, and will make any team an even more stellar squad.
Charlie: CJ Perez, Christian Standhardinger, and Troy Rosario.
Carlo: Marc Pingris, Dwight Ramos, and Jaydee Tungcab.
Jutt: Marc Pingris, for obvious reasons. Then I'd say Ray Parks and Mac Belo. Both these guys have what it takes to crack the national team. They've been there before. I guess it just was pleasantly surprising to see them back after being out of the Gilas scene for a while.
Noel: The three sets of brothers: the GDLs, the Ravenas and the Nietos. They will be inheriting the national colors and it's great to see that as early as now, they're being thrust into international competition to test their mettle.
3. For the first window, how do you see the composition in terms of veteran-young gun ratio?
Chuck: If you ask me, I'd just throw all the young boys into the fire. Maybe eight youngsters, and around four vets would do the trick. The wins against Thailand and Indonesia should be secondary to letting the future of Gilas get their feet wet, getting a taste of international competition.
Charlie: More veterans than young guns, probably. Assimilate the young guns more and more as the process goes along, after they acclimatize themselves with the situation and get a bunch of practices in with the vets.
Carlo: Maybe about 50-50. It's exciting to see the kids put in the work, but we still cannot afford to lose against Thailand and Indonesia in our first two games as the Philippines still has to establish its dominance in the Southeast Asian region.
Jutt: We don't play Korea in the first window. We go up against Thailand and Indonesia - the two teams that usually battle for second in Southeast Asian tournaments. These two countries have shown vast improvement through the years but the Philippines should still stand as heavy favorites against them. I think we can afford a team that leans more on the younger side for the first window.
Noel: Seeing as the first countries on the mission are Thailand and Indonesia, it could be more of the youngsters seeing action with about three or four veterans in the mix just for the transition of the program. It would be interesting to see how the likes of Christian Standhardinger will mentor a Justine Baltazar or even an RR Pogoy transferring his chops to a Rey Suerte. This is a huge opportunity for the next generation Gilas to learn from their "kuyas".
4. Fill in the blank: this team's biggest asset is______.
Chuck: Versatility. You need someone to dominate in the paint? Christian Standhardinger is there. Energy and athleticism? CJ Perez, Kobe Paras, Dave Ildefonso and Thirdy Ravena are ready to take flight. Need someone to orchestrate in the halfcourt? Give it to Kiefer Ravena or Juan Gomez De Liaño and watch them run the team.
Charlie: Veteran stability. Most of those that played already several times for Gilas Pilipinas Men in the past are as steady as they come. The can be leaders by example and/or vocal leaders who can teach and influence the younger ones and impact them positively. Here's hoping the youngsters listen and learn as much as they can.
Carlo: Athleticism. From the guards to the bigs, this pool as great athletes. If they can be honed to play as a single unit, this team can be very good.
Jutt: Youth would be an easy answer, but I'll say it's versatility. There are more than a handful of players who can play multiple positions. That's always a big factor in international play.
Noel: Intelligence and speed. Tab Baldwin's handling of the national program will instill a lot of philosophies that will lean towards how fast and relentless in the open court the team can be. All the collegians tapped have displayed outstanding basketball IQ and with enough practice, they might showcase a brand of basketball that has not been experienced in the previous Gilas incarnations.
5. Anyone else you would have wanted to see in the pool?
Chuck: It's perfectly adequate for the first window. They should have a lot of fun running and flying up and down the floor. Bring it on!
Charlie: Robert Bolick. Too bad he is still recuperating from his knee injury.
Carlo: Seeing Marc Pingris' name there means that the SBP wants the younger players to learn from the veterans. I would have wanted to see a seasoned point guard to show players such as Juan Gomez De Liano the ins and outs of international basketball. Someone like LA Tenorio was who I had in mind.
Jutt: Imagine Rhenz Abando in a Gilas uniform. Interesting, right?
Noel: Still June Mar Fajardo. Even with the Kraken is hitting his 30s, the reigning 5-time PBA MVP is still the undisputed beat player in the archipelago and will still be the Gilas centerpiece entering the 2023 Worlds. His presence in the pool would also inspire the youngsters to strive to be like him--on and off the court.