With the rest of our South East Asian neighbors catching up and out to give us a though fight for this year’s South East Asian Basketball Association (SEABA) Championship which is the FIBA sub-zone qualifying tournament for this year’s FIBA Asia Cup, which the Philippines will host this May, I am listing down the best possible line-up which can preserve our cage supremacy in the region.
Before, our college/ amateur selections can easily handle this task and lobotomize the opponent, hardly giving the other side a chance to fight. But times had changed. In the last South East Asian Games in Singapore, we saw how our best college stars got the scare from Thailand who played superb European style basketball from the start and it was unimaginable to see a Philippine side playing a neck to neck battle with a scrappy but well-coached Thai squad in recent years. That Thailand team was one of the best that I saw in recent years talent-wise and collectively as a team. The Philippines prevailed 80-75 thanks to the heroics of Troy Rosario and the Phenom Kiefer Ravena. It is good to note that the team was reinforced then by Marcus Douthit and had the likes of Jio Jalalon, Scottie Thompson and Mac Belo. Can we have a walk in the park again for this year’s SEABA? Maybe yes, just maybe if we put the proper pieces together.
The Front Court
June Mar Fajardo
Art Dela Cruz
There have been reports that Andray Blatche would not be available in time for the SEABA joust due to his commitments with his club Xinjiang Flying Tigers in the Chinese Basketball Association which can go deep into the playoffs. Also as of this date, he has been reportedly injured. But nevertheless, if available, the former Brooklyn Net must headline Gilas in this tournament. He will be the anchor of the team’s inside presence as he did before in the past tournaments. He is familiar to the players and the system of Coach Chot Reyes and he can also help free up June Mar Fajardo and Raymond Almazan inside if his perimeter and outside game clicks. For the SEABA tournament, Dray is just a match-up nightmare for the opponent.
The inclusion of June Mar Fajardo is a no-brainer. The PBA’s 3-time most valuable player is still searching for his chance to dominate in the international arena and this could be the chance for the “Kraken” to be unleashed. Given the circumstances of Blatche’s availability, June Mar is the best big man available to anchor Gilas in the middle. The SEABA can be Fajardo’s coming out party in donning the Philippine tri-colors. (This author is hoping it will be).
Raymond Almazan on his part will be a good fit for Chot Reyes’ small-ball system owing his training playing under similar circumstances with his erstwhile head coach at Rain or Shine in the PBA, Yeng Guiao. Almazan is fast and can run the floor. He has a decent touch from deep which is something Coach Chot can exploit and he is a weak side operator who can be productive even if he plays alongside June Mar Fajardo at the same time. On the defensive side Almazan is a rim protector and does not back down from bigger opponents.
I’ve listed Art Dela Cruz in case that Blatche is unavailable, he can be a steady back-up for Fajardo and Almazan. Another player who has speed and a good touch from the perimeter and beyond the arc, Art can be a good fit to Coach Reyes’ system. He can provide quality minutes for Gilas and 4 points 5 rebounds, 1 block per game in the SEABA can be valuable coming from a player like him. There are also intangibles that Art can bring in to the table that can’t be listed in a stat sheet.