FIBA World Cup 2014: A tall order for the Philippines
In less than four days from now, the Philippine Men’s Basketball Team famously known as Gilas Pilipinas will be battling the best of the best in the world in the 2014 FIBA World Cup. Gilas’ 12-man line-up composed of big men Japeth Aguilar, June Mar Fajardo, Marc Pingris, Ranidel De Ocampo, and naturalized center Andray Blatche, alongside prolific guards Gabe Norwood, Jeff Chan, Gary David, Paul Lee, Jimmy Alapag, LA Tenorio, and Jayson William (Castro) will be sharing the stage with some of the most talented players in the world.
If the tune-up games leading to the World Cup are any indication of how the Philippines will fare against the other teams, it will be a tough tournament for Gilas Pilipinas. Aside from the Philippines’ 36-year absence from international competition in the world stage, another thing going against them is that they’re undersized. Just how undersized is Gilas Pilipinas?
Despite the addition of former Brooklyn Nets’ center Andray Blatche, the Philippines remains the smallest team in the 24-team tourney. The team has an average height of only 6’4″ (192 cm). Also, three of the shortest players in the competition are the guards of Gilas Pilipinas in Jimmy Alapag, LA Tenorio, and Jayson William Castro, all listed at 5’9″ (176 cm). The closest nation to us in terms of height would be our neighbor Korea, that also has an average height of 6’4″ (194 cm).
Not helping the Philippines’ cause is that the fact that they’ve been grouped with three of the tallest teams in Greece (average height: 6’8″ 204 cm), Croatia (average height: 6’8″ 203 cm), and Senegal (average height: 6’8″ 202 cm). The other two teams that were also grouped with Gilas in Group B, Argentina (average height: 6’6″ 198 cm) and Puerto Rico (average height: 6’6″ 199 cm), aren’t that small either.
Gilas Pilipinas relies on the dribble-drive offense which pretty much explains why the team is stacked with guards. The guards of the Philippines must do everything they can to negate the size advantage of their opponents in Group B at the guard position. Gabe Norwood (6’4″ 194 cm), Gilas’ tallest guard, will be up against bigger players who can shoot from the outside like Brooklyn Nets’ shooting guard Bojan Bogdanovic (6’8″ 204 cm, tallest guard in Group B) who plays for Croatia. A fun match-up to look out for though is the point-guard battle between Gilas’ Lee, Alapag, Tenorio, and Castro William against the tested NBA-veteran Jose Juan (JJ) Barea (5’11″ 180 cm) of Puerto Rico.
Down the block, the Gilas’ bigs will have to use every ounce of muscle they’ve got to keep the giants of the other teams out of the shaded area. In Group B, the Philippines’ frontline composed of Andray Blatche (6’11” 211 cm), Japeth Aguilar (6’10” 208 cm), June Mar Fajardo (6’10” 208 cm), Marc Pingris (6’5” 196 cm), and Ranidel De Ocampo (6’5” 195 cm) is the shortest in the group with an average height of only 6’8” (203.60 cm). Among all the centers and forwards in Group B, the Philippines has the shortest one in Ranidel De Ocampo.
On the other hand, Argentina has Luis Scola (6’8″ 204 cm) to bank on. Croatia has a pair of 7-footers. Greece has three 7-footers, not including 6’11″ “Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks. Puerto Rico also has a pair of 7-footers. And Senegal has a 7-footer and the 6’11″ up-and-coming center of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Gorgui Dieng. That list is quite a handful for Gilas Pilipinas in Group B and makes the 2014 FIBA World Cup a “tall order” indeed.
However, Filipino hoop fans must not be discouraged by the glaring size disadvantage that the other Group B teams present. It’s still very possible to steal at least a game or two and achieve the goal they’ve set: finish in the round of 16.
One thing’s for sure though, and Marc Pingris already assured, no matter what happens, lalalaban ang Gilas Pilipinas!