CLARK, PAMPANGA - After the surreal victory by this new generation of Gilas Pilipinas against Korea last Wednesday, the momentum could carryover to its upcoming tiff versus ASEAN rival Indonesia on Friday in the ongoing 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers here. The pressure will actually off for both squads in the encounter as the Philippines has virtually booked their seat in the tournament that begins this August while Indonesia has the distinction of being the host nation of the event.
After two blowout losses to Korea and Gilas during the first window in February 2020, the Indonesians are out to pick up their first winning streak of their tune-up tour after having blasted Thailand 90-76 during the Bahrain window last November.
In that game, the team brandished perhaps their strongest line-up to date as American-Indonesian cager Brandon Jawato was finally cleared to play as a local and joined forces with naturalized player Lester Prosper in the decisive triumph.
However, a back injury and subsequent surgery has sidelined the 6'4" Jawato in the current window and while head coach Rajko Toroman has already downplayed his squad's chances during his media rounds, Prosper still remains a formidable obstacle for the young Filipino quintet coming in.
Here's Indonesia's roster against Gilas:
The local charge will be led by veteran inside operator Arki Wisnu who comes out of Baruch College in New York-a US NCAA Division III program. Wisnu is considered to be one of the more iconic Indonesian cagers of today, having been a four-time Indonesia Basketball League (IBL) All-Star selection, two-time Finals MVP and league MVP in 2017.
But Wisnu has not really gotten it going during the three games he's played in thus far as he has yet to break into double figures.
Despite being undersized, Wisnu is still crafty enough to work the post and knows how to spot his open shooters-led by Abraham Grahita and Andakara Prastawa, who are both shooting just under 50% from three-point range in the qualifiers.
Grahita is averaging 21.3 PPG while Prastawa in not far behind with 19.0 PPG-including 12/30 from deep.
Prosper racked up 19 points, 13 rebounds and two steals against Thailand in Manama. With the added time immersed in Toroman's system, Prosper can use these three games in this window to showcase his skills.
He will have an experience edge over Gilas' naturalized pivot Ange Kouame, but he may attract enough attention to get hefty contributions from Wisnu and the guards.
The first time these teams locked horns-way back in February 2020 in Jakarta-the Philippines came away with a 100-70 trouncing, but with an almost completely different line-up under coach Mark Dickel.
From that roster, only Isaac Go and Dwight Ramos remain.
The battle of tacticians will also be a sidelight of this encounter with the original program head (Toroman) matching wits with coach Tab Baldwin.
The youngsters of Gilas are on a high after the feat they pulled off against the Koreans. Can Indonesia step up and bring them back to earth?