Guiao eyes solution to backcourt puzzle as Ravena, rookies make their case

Gilas resumes practice at the Meralco Gym (1:38)

Gilas resumes practice at the Meralco Gym (1:38)

Coach Yeng Guiao has quite a problem on his hands as the battle in the Gilas backcourt escalates.

None of his young guards have been able to eke out a clear advantage as their FIBA World Cup preparations near the home stretch.

Their notable play in practices and games have forced the coaching staff to rethink and hold off on any decision until the final week of August.

"We had some positive developments," Guiao admitted. "The one and two positions will be tough. That's the position of the rookies. That's going to be a tight race."

Rookies Robert Bolick and CJ Perez have made excellent arguments for their inclusion in the 12-man lineup for China. Bolick's poise stood out especially in Gilas' pocket tournament in Malaga, where he anchored the team's scoring during two games versus Congo and Ivory Coast.

"I didn't change anything. I just played my game. That's what I only did, basically. I just played hard. Our opponents were bigger, more athletic so we had to play smart," Bolick said.

Perez, meanwhile, left his fingerprints all over the other side of the floor by showing a high level of anticipation on defense that belied his age and experience.

"It's all about the mindset. When I arrived in Spain, my mindset was to defend. Even if I don't score, my defense was there because that's what we needed. Dray [Blatche] and Paul Lee are there to score, anyway," he said.

The Spain camp offered key lessons that the two immediately utilized in their first practice back on Wednesday.

"[I learned that I had to improve] how I can defend bigger players in the post and how I can find my teammates better," Perez said.

"I just watched how they play, picked some parts and adapted it to my game," Bolick said. "If I become contented, I'll stagnate. Even if I excel in one aspect, I try to improve all aspects of my game in any way I can. That's my inspiration: to be the best player I can be for myself and for the team."

But even with the two rookies grabbing everyone's attention, Guiao hasn't forgotten about Kiefer Ravena, whom he fully trusts to step up to the plate as shown by his steady development in the team's build-up.

"Kiefer's practicing well and my confidence is high that he will perform well. He's been working hard, he's been putting extra work. He's a competitor, he has that kind of mindset. If he makes the team, I'm sure he can perform," commented Guiao.

The suspended guard is wary of being too eager on the court when he becomes eligible in the Gilas' second goodwill match against Australian NBL team Adelaide 36ers on August 25.

"Sometimes it bites you in the butt, when you want to be in it right away, when you don't wanna let the game come to you, let the flow of the game reach you. I'm afraid that I'll rush things," Ravena conceded.

"People won't understand how much stored energy I have in the past 18 months of not playing. ... Even I don't know what kind of game I'll be playing once I'm let loose. I just can't say anything about it until that day comes," the guard added.

Ravena, though, knows what he needs to do when he gets to his first game in more than 500 days.

"I have to find my balance before the game. I have to be really calm," he said. "I have to keep my head in the game, keep myself focused, filling in the void the team needs. I [have to be], as they always say, never too high, never too low."

With the clock ticking on Gilas' prep time for the World Cup, Guiao said that each day until their last tune-up will count in their evaluations.

"Of course, we wanna see them practice every day. It's their commitment. Being able to adjust to the system, being able to perform in that Australia series. Then we'll put that together and make a decision before we leave," Guiao said. "That's our last opportunity to see the guys in game situation and after that, we have another four or five days to make the final adjustments."